Windfarm veto is a 'vote bribe' - critics
Campaigners have greeted plans to grant communities a veto over unpopular and unsightly wind farms with scepticism.
Energy Minister Michael Fallon appears poised to publish planning protections and proposals for a scheme of community "payments" for residents who agree to allow wind turbines near their homes.
No formal announcement has been made but he is reported as having said new schemes would have to gain "community consent".
The issue has become crucial in many rural Conservative areas and is expected to have an impact on this week's local elections, in which David Cameron is expected to lose hundreds of council seats.
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Leading campaigner and chairman of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) in north Devon, Bob Barfoot, said it is an attempt to "bribe" local people.
"The Government is being attacked from all quarters over the destruction of the landscape – they are about to lose a massive amount of county council seats and could be trying to make people believe they are the custodians of the countryside," he added.
But Torridge and West Devon MP Geoffrey Cox, who has pledged to oppose every new commercial application after his constituency reached "tipping point", said the Government had finally "got the message".
He claimed Coalition pressures meant the announcement could not be made before the local elections but said he had been "assured" that it represented a re-balancing of power between developers and the district councils, which are currently held "over a barrel".
"I am pleased that Michael Fallon has said this as it has been in the pipeline for some time," he added.
"We cannot go on trashing the countryside with a proliferation of wind turbines."
It is understood that a "relief for the shires" package, will be unveiled next month, including new planning protections and a community benefit scheme.
Mr Fallon said he would not tolerate some areas being "swamped" by applications for wind farms.
"It's about a better balance," he told the Telegraph.