Westcountry is prime spot for wind farm applications
The Westcountry has been one of the prime targets for deeply unpopular wind farms over the last decade, figures reveal.
But MPs opposed to massive turbines believe the march of onshore technology has come to an end, and want subsidies lavished on them cut further.
A league table published in the House of Commons library reveals Cornwall Council received 25 applications for onshore windfarms between 2002 and 2011.
The figure, which pools applications made before the county's six district councils were scrapped in 2009, is the joint second-highest of all authorities in England.
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East Riding of Yorkshire Council also received 25, Northumberland County Council got 22 and Durham County Council recorded 21.
All four are predominantly rural areas, underlining how the countryside has born the brunt of the surge. Authorities in Devon received a combined total of 20 applications, according to information supplied by the Department for Energy and Climate Change.
Proponents contend that wind farms play a vital role in reducing carbon emissions pumped into the atmosphere as they remain the most mature form of renewable technology available, and create jobs.
But critics say they are a blight on rural communities and are inefficient. The coalition Government supports onshore wind farms, though ministers last week confirmed a 10% cut to subsidies developers get.
Subsidies, paid for through household energy bills, will be reviewed again next year against calls from Conservative backbench MPs to cut support by 25%, which has angered environmentalists.
Sources at DECC have indicated the number of wind farm planning applications currently in the system will bring Britain to the total number the country needs, indicating more major schemes will not get the go-ahead.
It is for this reason that London-based developer Quiet Revolution's recent proposals for a 20-turbine wind farm at Buckhayes Farm near Bampton, Mid Devon, is opposed by the area's MP, Neil Parish.
Mr Parish, Tory MP for Tiverton and Honiton, said: "We have enough already on land, and I don't think they are the solution to our green energy needs. We need to look at bio-digestion and look at the tidal range in the Bristol Channel to produce more power.
"They are intrusive into the countryside. People come to the countryside to enjoy it. If I thought they were the answer to our problems, I would be more enthusiastic. But they are not very efficient."
He added: "I will be encouraging a cut of 25 per cent to subsidies for onshore wind turbines."
The figures, published in response to a Parliamentary Question, also show the rate at which applications were refused. Authorities in Cornwall dismissed just five and approved 14 – the most approvals of any authority in England over the last ten years. The discrepancy can be explained by applications still going through the system. Six were made in Cornwall last year. In Devon, nine were refused.
Observers warned the figures look to be an under-estimate, despite coming from official sources. In February, Cornwall Council was said to be considering 69 formal requests for permission and a further 200 sites were thought to have been earmarked for Devon.
But the comparisons show how little other areas are targeted compared to the Westcountry. Large Wiltshire and Northamptonshire councils, which have rural areas but are less sparse, received applications in single figures.
Fullabrook wind farm, near Ilfracombe, North Devon – England's biggest – has polarised opinion for years but is now partially operational. And a proposed development at Davidstow in North Cornwall has infuriated locals.
Hazel Williams, senior analyst of Regen SW, the body which champions renewable energy in the region, said: "In the South West, appropriately sited onshore wind projects harness our excellent local, natural wind resource and offer real opportunities for local economic benefit from the generation of energy.
"For example, we are increasingly seeing community groups getting together to lead on renewable energy projects, including large-scale wind, with a view not only to reducing their carbon emissions, but, more than ever, to generate an income both for their community and for their local economy."
But she warned uncertainty about support for large-scale wind from 2014 onwards is likely to create knock-on uncertainty in the industry.
She added: "What we need is long-term, clear and transparent support for all scales of onshore wind that reflects and drives reductions in costs, whilst supporting the delivery of appropriately sited projects."
A spokesman for DECC said any wind farm proposals, regardless of their location, must go through the appropriate planning regime, and developers must engage with local communities. He added that, in proposing an application for an onshore wind farm, a developer will consider factors including the local plan and viability of the wind resource.
He added: "We are reducing the level of support for onshore wind through the Renewables Obligation by 10% from 2013 to reflect falling costs, to incentivise the most cost-effective turbines, and to minimise the impact on consumer energy bills."