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Enough wind turbines, says UK minister John Hayes

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14 November 2012

The accelerating spread of onshore wind turbines in Britain has caused a growing rift within David Cameron's Coalition government, with a large block of Conservative MPs challenging the government's enthusiasm for supporting new turbines.

While Britain has installed more offshore turbines than the rest of the world combined, onshore turbines are much more contentious and new industry figures show they are expanding at a record rate.

The Conservative Party's Environment Minister John Hayes gave heart yesterday to 100 Conservative backbenchers who have already spoken out against the onshore turbines when he declared that "enough is enough" and argued for tighter restrictions on their growth.

Mr Hayes's comments placed him in conflict with Ed Davey, the Liberal Democrat Energy Secretary who has direct responsibility for renewable energy policies and is much keener on supporting further expansion of wind power.
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The Prime Minister, Mr Cameron is still publicly committed to the growth of both onshore and offshore wind power but there have been growing signs of scepticism among his Conservative colleagues about the cost of subsidising wind power and the impact on rural landscapes and rising energy bills.

Chancellor George Osborne tried earlier this year to cut subsidies for onshore turbines by 25 per cent, but Mr Davey resisted furiously and kept the reduction to 10 per cent.

The capacity of onshore turbines approved by local governments in 2011-12 was 50 per cent higher than the previous year's approvals, according to industry body Renewables UK and Mr Hayes said it was time to stop the turbines being "peppered around the country" with little regard for local opinion.

"The onshore wind debate is skewing the whole debate, which is not good for the government, not good for people and not good for the renewables lobby," he told the Conservative-leaning Daily Mail and Telegraph newspapers.

Mr Hayes, who was appointed to the ministry last month, was careful not to challenge the government's policy of using more onshore wind power to help meet its targets for renewable energy output at the end of the decade.

Existing and planned turbines would be enough to meet the government's renewable energy commitments, he said.

"Even if a minority of what's in the system is built we are going to reach our 2020 target," he said. "I'm saying enough is enough."

"We can no longer have wind turbines imposed on communities. I have asked the planning minister to look again at the relationship between these turbines and the landscape.

"It seems extraordinary to have allowed them to be peppered around the country without due regard for the interests of the local community or their wishes."

He pointed to an inquiry the government has already announced into the benefits of onshore wind power.

"We have issued a call for evidence on wind. That is about cost but also about community buy-in. We need to understand communities' genuine desires.'

"We will form our policy in the future on the basis of that, not on a bourgeois Left article of faith based on some academic perspective."

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