Wind farms may be stopped by locals
Residents will be able to stop construction of wind farms under tough new rules that could sound the death knell for onshore wind.
New guidance is expected to tell councils that local people's concerns should take precedence over the need for renewable energy, and give more weight to the impact of turbines on the landscape and heritage.
The changes are part of a package of measures that also significantly 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.
Liberal Democrat Energy Secretary Ed Davey insisted that the Government remained committed to "appropriately sited onshore wind farms" as part of a diverse, low-carbon and secure energy mix.
But 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."
It is thought the changes to planning guidance could spell the end of new onshore wind, as it will make it much harder to build wind farms, and not many communities will be keen to take up the "sweetener" of payments.
Concerns have also been raised by the renewables industry that the much higher rate of payments would make some developments uneconomic and prevent them going ahead.
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.
In one scheme in which people are already set to benefit from higher levels of payment, local residents near RES's 12-turbine Meikle Carewe wind farm near Aberdeen will get £122 off their bills, along with community funds.
The funding would apply to projects that have not yet been constructed, and industry body RenewableUK estimates that turbines in the planning system or approved but not yet built could deliver up to almost £150 million to communities.