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CALL FOR RETHINK ON WIND FARMS

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The Conservative Party today called for a new approach to the development of renewable energy. The key points are a...
The Conservative Party today called for a new approach to the development of renewable energy. The key points are as follows:

- Conservatives believe that we need to develop a national consensus behind the drive to create more energy from renewable sources. The government is going about it the wrong way. Instead of making people enthusiastic about renewable energy, they are turning thousands against it.

- Ministers have bet everything on land based wind farms. In doing so, they are alienating local people and excluding other technologies from the market.

- Conservatives oppose the current planning proposals (PPS22) which allows the government to override local objections to renewable energy planning applications.

- Later this year, Conservatives will set out our plans to make Britain more energy efficient. This will include a more balanced and long term approach to renewable energy.

Speaking at an event in London, the shadow secretary of state for environment and transport, Tim Yeo MP said: 'Across Britain, a voice of protest is growing louder. From Wales to my own constituency in Suffolk, local communities are angry at the way that wind farms are being foisted on them by this Labour government.

'The problem is going to get bigger. Under Labour's current plans, the number of wind turbines in the UK, will increase from 1,000 today to over 6,000 by 2010. Almost every area of the country will be affected.

'Ministers have bet everything on land based wind farms in the belief that they are the quickest and the cheapest way to meet the government's renewable energy target. They are pressing ahead regardless of the opportunities offered by other renewable energy sources; regardless of the cost to the British landscape; and regardless of the impact their policy will have on local people's lives.

'The government has proposed a national Planning Policy statement (PPS 22). It is designed to override local concerns about wind farms. We oppose PPS 22 because we believe that it will be counterproductive. It will create build conflict not build consensus.

'We must find a better way forward. Not just for the sake of our countryside - although I am determined to protect that most precious British asset. But because we will only maximise the opportunities offered by renewable energy if we build consensus not conflict.

'Renewable energy has the potential both to help reduce carbon emissions and to reduce our dependence on overseas energy supplies. Today only 3% of Britain's energy is generated from renewable sources. I believe we need to do far better than that.

'But ministers are going about it in the wrong way. Instead of making people feel enthusiastic about renewable energy, they are turning thousands against it. Labour ministers are not trying to persuade - they are seeking to dictate. Their pursuit of a short-term target is blinding them to the bigger, long term opportunity.

'We need a more balanced, long term approach - one that carries the British people with it rather than alienating them. Later this year, we will set out our plans to make Britain more energy efficient. We will take a more ambitious and balanced approach.

'We do not believe that onshore wind should be the only show in town - we do not want to put all our eggs in one basket. We will look at all types of renewable energy in order to find the best long term solution for Britain. As an island nation, why are we not doing more to harness power from wave and tide? Could we not use our deep-sea expertise to take a lead in offshore wind? Should we not do more to help farmers develop green energy from forestry and agriculture?

'Let me be clear, Conservatives are not against wind farms - as our record demonstrates. In our last six years in office, we invested more money in wind power research and development than Labour spent in the next six years on all renewable energy technologies.

'Conservatives believe that wind turbines have a role to play in increasing the energy generated from renewable sources but we want to make sure that they are sensitively located.

'We will oppose any planning guidance in relation to renewable energy that undermines the ability of local planners to take decisions on the basis of local opinion. Government and developers have to make and win the case at both national and local level.

'Because we believe that consensus not coercion is the most sustainable approach.'

Notes

1. PPS 22 (Planning Policy 22: renewable energy) has been produced by the ODPM as the replacement for PPG 22. The public consultation on this national Planning Policy statement closed in January. To view PPS22, see planning section of the ODPM website www.odpm.gov.uk. The basic principles are that local authorities should a) promote and encourage the development of renewable energy b) introduce minimum renewable energy targets in regional plans and c) attach 'significant weight' to wider environmental and economic benefits in determining whether proposals should be granted planning permission. It's practical effect will be to create a presumption in favour of wind farms, and make it easier for developers to get a positive planning decision. Local opinion will be neutralised. The ultimate decision on appeal will reside with the secretary of state for trade and industry, the department that is accountable for national renewable energy targets.

2. The strength of local feeling in England about on shore wind turbines is reflected in average planning approval rates at local level of 50% over the last five years (source BWEA). Contentious projects in England include Saddleworth Moor (Greater Manchester); Romney Marsh ( Kent),Whinash (Cumbria); Next to the A14 at Cambridge;Great Glemham (Suffolk); The Mendips; Fullabrook Down, north Devon. More detail on local action groups is available here.

3. Wind farm protest sites: www.dartdorset.org and www.savethevale.org.uk

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