New legislation is to be brought forward to allow residents to block wind farms, the Government is to announce today.
Sources close to Prime Minister David Cameron last night revealed the Government is to say it wants local people’s concerns to take precedence over the need for renewable energy.
The news was last night welcomed by anti-wind campaigners in Northumberland, with one saying said they had been pressing for such changes “for years.”
Questions have been asked, however, about the effect the moves will have on the renewable energy sector.
A Downing Street source said: “The Prime Minister feels that it is very important that local voters are taken into account when it comes to wind farms and that is why new legislation will be brought forward, so that if people don’t want wind farms in their local areas they will be able to stop them.”
Last night, the news was welcomed in Northumberland.
Dr James Lunn, who has led the fight against turbines at Fenrother near Morpeth, said: “Hopefully the rhetoric does come into written policy soon. Hopefully it is not going to take months and months and months to go through the system.
“Nothing that has such opposition is sustainable and at last it appears that the Government understands that, and that the sustainability of communities is as important as climate change and global warming. I think we are happy the Government is listening.”
Cornhill farmer Andrew Joicey, who has opposed a number of wind projects in the Berwick area, added: “These are some of the things we have been pressing for years.
“It has been ridiculously skewed to date because the planning system assumes that because an application is for renewable energy, that so called benefit outweighs harmful impacts regardless of the size of the benefit of the renewable energy.
“I am encouraged to see at last some of the concerns which we have been flagging up for years seem to be being addressed in the Government. I am quite heartened although always cautious until I have seen the detail.”
The Government is also to increase the amount of money communities will receive for agreeing to host wind farms nearby, with householders set to get hundreds of pounds off energy bills.
The new measures demand a five-fold increase in what developers are expected to pay residents for allowing wind turbines in their local area, up from £1,000 per megawatt of installed power to £5,000.
A community agreeing to a medium-sized 20-megawatt wind farm that might involve around 10 turbines would receive a package of benefits worth £100,000 a year or seeing up to £400 cut from each household’s bill.
The funding would apply to projects that have not yet been constructed, with industry body RenewableUK estimating that turbines in the planning system or approved but not yet built could deliver up to almost £150m to communities.
Liberal Democrat Energy Secretary Ed Davey will today say: “It is important that onshore wind is developed in a way that is truly sustainable – economically, environmentally and socially, and today’s announcement will ensure that communities see the windfall from hosting developments near to them, not just the wind farm.
“We remain committed to the deployment of appropriately sited onshore wind, as a key part of a diverse, low carbon and secure energy mix and committed to an evidence-based approach to supporting low carbon power.”
Developers proposing more significant onshore wind schemes will be required to consult local communities before submitting an application.
Companies will also be expected to meet higher standards in relation to engaging with local communities.
Concerns have been raised by the renewables industry that the higher rate of payments would make some developments uneconomic and prevent them going ahead.
Maria McCaffery, chief executive of RenewableUK, said: “Developing wind farms requires a significant amount of investment to be made upfront.
“Adding to this cost, by following the Government’s advice that we should pay substantially more into community funds for future projects, will unfortunately make some planned wind energy developments uneconomic in England, so they will not go ahead and that is very disappointing.
“That said, we recognise the need to ensure good practice across the industry and will continue to work with government and local authorities to benefit communities right across the country which are hosting our clean energy future.”