David Cameron predicts 'fewer' wind and solar farms in Devon and Cornwall
David Cameron has predicted “fewer” wind and solar farms across the Westcountry following a recent Government shake-up of planning rules.
The Prime Minister told the Western Morning News the “right framework” was now in place for deciding applications, despite mounting frustration that the mixed messages sent out by the Coalition on renewable energy and vocal opposition from Devon MPs.
The comments came just days after Somerset MP and Liberal Democrat minister Jeremy Browne declared large-scale solar parks a “monstrous desecration” of the countryside.
Asked whether he shared his Cabinet colleague’s view of the technology, Mr Cameron said there was “a case” for looking at incentives.
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“I think there is a case for supporting different forms of renewable energy because we need to generate electricity safely in this country,” he added. “But there’s always a case for looking at the individual subsidy regimes and checking we have got them right.
“For solar we did cut the payments both for households and larger schemes – it was right to do that as it reflected a change in the costs.
“In terms of onshore wind, where there’s a lot of concern we have just set out new rules to make sure there are more community benefits and a tougher system.
“I suspect there will be fewer schemes going ahead and I think we have got the right framework.”
The Coalition scaled back lucrative incentives paid for pumping clean energy into the National Grid, via the feed-in-tariff, following concern the levels were too generous.
But campaigners claimed the subsequent introduction of the new National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) with its presumption in favour of renewable development, was making it difficult for councils to refuse planning permission for green energy schemes.
Following an outcry by backbench Tories, including Devon MPs Geoffrey Cox and Sarah Wollaston, the Department for Communities and Local Government rewrote its planning policy guidance.
Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said the move would hand more power to local communities, allowing them to oppose unpopular schemes.
The Campaign for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE), however, said the changes were only “a small step forward”.
This week Mr Browne became the first minister to voice hardline opposition to solar farms, after plans for a 50-acre site near Taunton were revealed. He described the schemes as “ugly and brutal”, revealing he had written to the Department for Energy and Climate Change asking for the local guidance to be altered.
Mr Cameron also faced questions over his handling of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) negotiations – which could see more cash diverted away from farming into environmental initiatives – and whether the Conservatives really were the “party of the countryside”. He said the Tories had a “track record” of standing up for rural communities, adding that he wanted to see a “living, working countryside”.
“We don’t want to go back to the bad old days of more production subsidies,” he added.
“If we do shift money from pillar one to pillar two it is not disappearing out of farming.
“We really want to stand up for British food and farming and won’t do anything which stands in the way of that.”