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Warning over wind turbines spread
Countryside campaigners have issued a warning over the spread of thousands of wind turbines across "valued" landscapes.
The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) said that in 2008 there were 685 turbines more than 30 metres high (100ft) built, in construction or awaiting approval in the countryside.
But by March of this year, the number had soared to more than 4,100 - a figure which does not include turbines smaller than 30 metres.
The campaigners are concerned that some parts of the country are being overrun with wind farms, the cumulative effect of which is ruining the countryside in areas such as Cornwall and County Durham.
The CPRE also said protected areas such as National Parks are ending up ringed with turbines in the surrounding countryside, damaging the valued landscapes which have been conserved.
The organisation said it was not against wind farms per se, acknowledging that climate change must be tackled and that wind power should be part of the energy mix. But it raised concerns that local communities in some areas were struggling to cope with a stream of applications for developments and that the industry had a dismissive attitude to concerns raised during the planning process.
The rise in applications comes as local authorities are cutting back on planning funding, leading to fears planners are not able to cope with often-controversial proposals. And the CPRE said wind developments often grouped in certain areas, perhaps where they were more likely to get the go-ahead, with the effect that the landscape was damaged by a large concentration of turbines.
The CPRE is calling for more clarity from the Government about the total number of onshore wind farm it expects to see built and where they might go. It also wants to see a more strategic "plan-led" approach which recognises how many turbines an area's landscape can accommodate without being damaged and looks at the cumulative effects of wind farms.
Industry body RenewableUK said the CPRE's concerns were "misplaced", with only 1,826 turbines constructed or planned for England at present.
The organisation's director of policy Dr Gordon Edge said: "Onshore wind is the cheapest source of low-carbon power, and restricting its development would jeopardise our firm commitment to offer value for money to the consumer, as well as green energy. It's clear that only some locations are suitable for wind, but the way to identify those is by assessing each wind farm on its own merits, not the top-down approach the CPRE is proposing."