John Hayes said turbine developments should no longer be "imposed on communities"

Government split over wind farms

Coalition tensions over energy policy erupted after a minister said there would be no further expansion of onshore wind farms.

John Hayes was immediately slapped down by Energy Secretary Ed Davey for insisting that "enough is enough" and turbine developments should no longer be "imposed on communities".

The Tory energy minister had been ordered not to deliver the remarks in a speech earlier this week, amid warnings that they were not compatible with government policy and would breach the ministerial code, but they were obtained instead for publication by newspapers.

A source close to Mr Davey said: "It's not government policy and nor will it be. The Tories are not in a single-party government.

"We support renewables and we are not talking about a moratorium on onshore wind at the moment. We are going to continue to hold Conservative feet to the fire."

Mr Hayes, whose comments will delight many Tory backbenchers opposed to onshore wind farms, was appointed by Prime Minister David Cameron as a Tory deputy to Mr Davey in last month's reshuffle.

Mr Davey was reportedly so concerned about his views on the issue that he acted to limit his responsibilities.

In comments apparently cut from a draft of Mr Hayes's speech in Glasgow last night, he said policy should not be based on a "bourgeois left article of faith".

"We can no longer have wind turbines imposed on communities. I can't single-handedly build a new Jerusalem but I can protect our green and pleasant land," he said.

"We have issued a call for evidence on wind. That is about cost but also about community buy-in.

"We need to understand communities' genuine desires. We will form our policy in the future on the basis of that, not on a bourgeois left article of faith based on some academic perspective."

He insisted only a minority of proposed wind turbines were needed to meet green targets set by the government.

"If you look at what has been built, what has consent and what is in the planning system, much of it will not get through and will be rejected. 

"Even if a minority of what's in the system is built, we are going to reach our 2020 target. I'm saying enough is enough."

The minister said new research on wind turbines would make a far wider assessment of their impact on the rural landscape and property prices.

"I have asked the planning minister to look again at the relationship between these turbines and the landscape," he said.

"It seems extraordinary to have allowed them to be peppered around the country without due regard for the interests of the local community or their wishes."

Mr Hayes said the impact of onshore wind farms on environments had been neglected and renewable energy needed "genuine community support".

"The salience of aesthetics to discussions about renewables has often been neglected," he added. "All that we do must be sensitive to local environments."

It is understood that Mr Davey's office saw a draft of the speech Mr Hayes was planning to deliver last night and he was told it was not acceptable and he should not give it. 

The content then appears to have ended up with the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Energy and Climate Change said the speech Mr Hayes gave last night was "well received by the renewables industry".

"Government policy for renewables, as stated in the Renewables Roadmap, sets out scenarios for renewable deployment, but does not set targets or caps for the deployment of individual technologies, including on onshore wind," the spokeswoman said.

"Government is committed to supporting a balanced energy mix of renewables, new nuclear and gas in order to meet the UK's energy needs."

Greenpeace accused Mr Hayes of deepening the divide in government over energy policy.

Energy campaigner Leila Deen said: "John Hayes' petulant outburst adds to the Coalition's growing energy shambles and to a deepening divide within government between those who care about green growth and the economy and those who just want more oil and gas.

"Here is a new minister veering off brief and publicly contradicting his bosses. His comments threaten jobs and his approach will drive up energy bills."

She went on: "Cameron needs to take charge, decide whose side he's on and reassure industry and investors that John Hayes won't go over their heads and make policy over the phone to the Daily Mail."

Maf Smith, deputy chief executive of RenewableUK, said his organisation was "disappointed" by Mr Hayes' comments, which came after he addressed a renewables conference last night.

He told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: "At our conference he was talking about the importance of renewables in the mix, the importance of wind, the importance of jobs and securing benefits for renewables.

"What we would like is clarity about those views. We understand some of those things that have been said in print this morning are not Government policy."

Nick Molho, head of energy policy at WWF-UK, said: "John Hayes' comments will be deeply unhelpful and unsettling for investors.

"It also beggars belief that he should come out with them on a day when Michael Heseltine, in a report to the Prime Minister, has highlighted the need for a clear and consistent long term energy policy and framework to unlock economic growth.

"Numerous polls have shown that the vast majority of people support renewables and wind farms and even show that most people are happy to live near them.

"Mr Hayes is listening to a small minority and ignoring the best interests of the country and its people.

"With the Energy Bill just weeks away, David Cameron needs to get a grip on his government.

"The Prime Minister currently appears to be asleep at the wheel on energy policy, with George Osborne a back seat driver colour-blind to green growth. If it carries on like this, our energy future is going to crash."

A recent poll for the Co-operative showed that two thirds of people would rather have a wind turbine close to their house than a well extracting unconventional shale gas.

Mr Davey said in a statement: "There has been no change to Government policy on renewable energy, as collectively agreed by the coalition Cabinet.

"We set out in the Renewable Energy Roadmap in July 2011 how we expect to reach our target of getting 30 per cent of all UK electricity from renewable sources by 2020.

"We've put in place support to bring on growth in new industries to deploy the technologies needed to diversify our energy mix in the most cost-effective way.

"There are no targets - or caps - for individual renewable technologies such as onshore wind. Nor are there reviews being done of onshore wind on the basis of landscape or property values.

"What we're currently consulting on are ways of making sure local communities feel the benefit of hosting wind farms, and whether our understanding of future costs is accurate.

"Onshore wind is one of the cheapest renewables, which is why we've been able to cut the subsidy. It has an important role to play in our energy future."

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