Tories take wind out of turbine investors

Tories to take wind out of developers' sails.
Tories to take wind out of developers' sails.
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South Holland residents forced to shell out thousands to fight turbines are welcoming a Tory plan to scrap lucrative subsidies for all onshore wind farms.

MP John Hayes says “the threat of onshore wind will be removed with the subsidies” and “almost none of these schemes will go ahead”.

The pledge depends on the Conservatives winning the 2015 general election, but turbine opponents believe developers will now start to feel a draught – and investors are likely to be scared off without the lure of big cash rewards.

The turnaround will end the unfairness of fat-cat companies getting millions at taxpayers’ expense while communities who fight turbines are saddled with debts.

Protest group Fenrats won a victory last year against Wind Ventures Ltd’s bid to site six turbines the height of Salisbury Cathedral on Treading Field at Sutton St Edmund.

But the battle cost residents £51,500 and so far they have only raised a little over £22,000 towards the bill.

Stop West Pinchbeck Wind Farm has already spent £5,000 fighting a Wind Ventures plan for The Delph, sandwiched between two nature reserves, and the company’s application hasn’t yet gone to South Holland’s planning committee.

Michael Coleman, from Fenrats, says axing wind farm subsidies is “the only surefire way to stop the turbines”.

“If it’s not financially viable, they won’t do it,” he said. “It’s a huge relief and I am looking forward to the day when it becomes a reality.”

Mr Hayes, the South Holland and The Deepings MP, says the two-pronged attack will scrap subsidies for all new wind farms and give councils a decisive say on planning applications.

He said: “People are not interested in running these things as viable, commercial operations – they are interested in the subsidies very largely.

“This will clearly suck the life out of the onshore wind industry.”

The MP backed Fenrats and supports the West Pinchbeck group, who want a new bird survey at The Delph after their expert revealed major flaws in the company’s ecological data.

The proposed site has whooper swans – a protected species – living there.

Mr Hayes also wants the survey done again and has pledged to fight that planning application – and others in inappropriate sites – between now and the next election.

Tony Fear, from Stop West Pinchbeck Wind Farm, said: “It is very difficult for small local communities like ours to find the necessary money to fight back against the corporate might of the wind farm developers.”

He said the company’s “blunder” on its ecology survey had enabled protesters to focus funds on one area, but the application should have been kicked out by the district council because a flawed survey cannot be “patched up”.

Mr Fear said: “Removing or reducing subsidies should put a stop to speculative planning applications as, without them, wind farms are not financially viable.”

He would prefer subsidies to be scrapped before the election rather than afterwards.

Wind farm victim Jane Davis, who was forced to quit her Deeping St Nicholas home through turbine noise, said: “It’s too little, too late and too long to wait – and will still not keep the lights on.”

nWind Ventures did not reply to our request for a comment.