THE Conservative chairman has dropped a clear hint his party will come out firmly against onshore wind farms in their 2015 manifesto as he insisted the best place for turbines is far out at sea.
Grant Shapps told a meeting of regional journalists yesterday that onshore wind farms “upset everybody”, and that Conservatives “by and large” believe turbines are better sited offshore.
Onshore wind farms have continued to proliferate under the coalition Government, and reports surfaced last week that the Tories are planning an out-and-out moratorium as part of their 2015 general election manifesto in a bid to woo rural voters who are considering switching support to UKIP.
Asked whether strong anti-wind farm measures would be indeed be in the Conservative Party manifesto, Mr Shapps said: “The wind is moving in a clear direction here. The Conservatives feel wind farms have a place – and it is offshore, by and large.”
Onshore wind farms have attracted huge opposition across rural Yorkshire over recent years, with local campaign groups putting up fierce battles to proposed developments in every part of the region.
By contrast, Government plans to build thousands of 400ft turbines out in the North Sea, far off the Yorkshire coast, have proven far less controversial. The region is expecting a significant economic boon from the manufacture of the offshore turbines, with Siemens confirming last week that it will set up two huge factories in East Yorkshire.
Mr Shapps said the UK was perfectly placed to capitalise on the burgeoning offshore wind industry, and suggested there was no longer a need to continue building turbines onshore across rural Britain.
“I think wind power’s great,” he said. “But we have the best coastline, because of the geography of the country, of any country in the world for the prospect of wind. And, actually, they work better off in the sea as well because it’s windier, so they don’t have to blight the landscape and upset everybody at the same time. The direction of wind travel is clear, without wanting to pre-empt our manifesto.”
Mr Shapps stressed there are significant differences between the Tories and their coalition partners over wind farm policy, hinting the Government would have already moved more firmly against onshore turbines were it not for the Liberal Democrats.
“Lib Dems love them everywhere, and in as many locations as possible,” he said. “They somehow think it’s environmentally-friendly to have these giant pylons all over the place. That’s an area of real differentiation.”
While the Conservatives continueto make lcear policy concessions to woo potential Ukip voters, Mr Shapps played down the threat the Tories will face.
“It becomes a very complex tapestry when you’ve got a fourth party in the race,” he said. “I literally don’t know (what the impact will be).
“I think In the end, when people look seriously at the time of the election at who has got the long-term economic plan, who has got the serious solution, who has been prepared to make the difficult decisions, then there’s a bit of a contrast between us and people like Ukip.
“Last time I looked, three weeks ago they had dumped their entire manifesto from the previous election. It’s just a mess. It’s fine for (Nigel) Farage to do that for now, but actually if you’re serious about being elected and running the country then you have to have policies that stand up to scrutiny.”