Grant Shapps calls for Northumberland wind farm rethink

Conservative chairman Grant Shapps speaks out on the spread of Northumberland wind turbines

Dave Thompson/PA Wire Tory party chairman Grant Shapps
Tory party chairman Grant Shapps

The Conservatives have hinted at a tougher approach to onshore wind turbines after their party chairman told planners it is time for a rethink.

Grant Shapps told The Journal he wanted to see “a more enlightened approach” after hearing for himself of concerns from those in Northumberland over the spread of wind farms.

The Tory chairman said that while off-shore wind might be useful in meetings the country’s energy needs, there are clear alternatives to the spread of on-shore turbines.

The Tories are thought to be in conflict with their Liberal Democrat coalition partners over turbines, with the Energy and Countryside secretaries locked in a row over the potential damage to rural tourism.

A Defra study on the economic impact of wind turbines in areas dependant upon tourism for jobs is aid to have been delayed after the Department for Energy raised concerns.

Mr Shapps said the county deserved a quick answer on the impact of turbines on rural tourism.

He added: “I think wind turbines are a big concern for local people, I heard some of that expressed in Northumberland, and I think now there is a change of views taking place. Yes we need to meet our energy needs, and ensure that we do that in a way that keeps energy prices down.

“But is building wind turbines all over the land the best way? Well, I think a lot of people have come to conclusion that, while yes, put them out at sea, that makes sense, but on land, there may be better ways to go.

“For example, what happens with the next stage of nuclear power, which can produce a lot more power perfectly safely. I think there is a need for a more, shall we say, enlightened approach. I’m not the energy minister but I think the report is coming soon.”

Northumberland County Council has already called for better guidance from Government on challenging wind turbines. Labour council leader Grant Davey said the region urgently needed the report to be released.

Last night Berwick Conservative Anne-Marie Trevelyan said Mr Shapps had heard considerable opposition to wind turbines on his recent visit.

“I raised this with him as one of the biggest concerns here. We think wind turbines can have a detrimental impact on tourism which palsy such an important role in our local economy.

“We see onshore wind turbines being heavily subsidised through our fuel bills in an area such as Berwick which suffers greatly from fuel poverty. That subsidy tends to go to make a profit for foreign firms and the system needs to be reformed to stop energy firms putting up these turbines just to make a quick profit.”

Any reform of the incentive system would face strong opposition from the Conservative’s coalition partners.

Lib Dem energy secretary Ed Davey said at the start of the week that he thought wind turbines offered good value for money, addressing a system of subsidies which critics say forces up bills.

Mr Davey accepted that consumers were set to see more price rises after SSE announced last week that it was raising gas and electricity prices by an average of more than 8%

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