Countryside campaigners yesterday condemned plans to ‘bribe’ residents to accept controversial wind farms.
Energy Secretary Ed Davey launched a consultation on the issue – saying communities that host onshore wind farms could benefit from reduced electricity bills.
There could also be investment in infrastructure for places that accept the schemes, which are unpopular in most of the countryside.
There could be new playgrounds or village halls, or repairs to the local church, in compensation for living near turbines, which many people oppose, believing them noisy and an eyesore.
In Scotland a similar system already operates, with benefits for all communities within six miles of a wind farm.
But Tom Leveridge, of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, warned the cash for turbines idea could undermine the planning system.
He said: “We’re pleased the Government is looking at this issue and we hope it is a recognition that you can’t simply ride roughshod over legitimate community concerns about the landscape impact of onshore wind turbines.
“A genuine attempt to promote community engagement in the design, location and layout of wind farms should lead to a more sensitive approach to reducing the impact wind turbines can have on our beautiful landscapes.
“We must make sure that this does not promote simplistic notions of ‘sharing benefits’ that amount to little more than paying off communities to secure planning permission.
“This would fundamentally undermine a core principle of the planning system – that planning permission should not be bought or sold.”
Mr Davey said he wanted to ensure communities secured financial, social and environmental benefits from wind.
He said: “Onshore wind has an important role to play in a diverse energy mix that is secure, low-carbon and affordable. We know that two-thirds of people support the growth of onshore wind.
“But far too often, host communities have seen the wind farms but not the windfall.
“We are sensitive to the controversy around onshore wind and we want to ensure that people benefit from having wind farms sited nearby.”
Energy Minister John Hayes said onshore wind had a role to play, but to garner popular support there had to be a big improvement in the way developers engage with local communities, and more obvious local benefits.
As the Daily Press has reported, Mr Hayes said this week that people living near nuclear power stations, such as Hinkley Point in Somerset, should also receive community benefits.