New Tory split on wind farms as minister hails turbines as 'wonderful and majestic'
Climate change minister Greg Barker also claims turbines in his Bexhill and Battle constituency are a 'tourist attraction'Comments are at odds with fellow Conservative John Hayes, who has complained about wind farms 'peppering' the countrysideMr Barker joined David Cameron on infamous 2006 Arctic tripHe said the PM is still committed to being green, adding: 'The idea that the huskies have been put to sleep is nonsense'
16:13 GMT, 4 December 2012
Conservative party divisions over green energy widened today, after climate change minister Greg Barker hailed wind farms as ‘wonderful’ and ‘rather majestic’.
Mr Barker appeared to take a swipe at his Tory colleague John Hayes, who has made plain his opposition to more turbines ‘peppering’ the countryside.
The government is expected to commit to a major expansion in gas generation, with up to 30 new power stations in operation by 2030.
Tory minister Greg Barker joined David Cameron on the now famous 2006 trip to the Scott Turner Glacier on the island of Svalbard inside the Arctic circle
Tory split: Climate change minister Greg Barker says wind farms can be 'majestic' but energy minister John Hayes insists 'enough is enough' and he does not want more peppering the countryside
The move, due to be announced by George Osborne in tomorrow’s Autumn Statement, has angered green campaigners who accuse the coalition of abandoning a promise to be the ‘greenest government ever’.
Mr Barker, who joined David Cameron on his infamous hug-a-huskie trip to the Artcic in 2006, insisted the PM was still committed to the environmental agenda.
‘The idea that the huskies have been put to sleep is nonsense,’ he told the Financial Times.
‘I have no doubt at all about the prime minister’s green convictions.’
He added that unlike Mr Hayes he did not object to ‘wonderful’ wind turbines, and even claimed one near his Sussex constituency had become ‘almost a tourist attraction’.
Mr Cameron's Arctic jaunt was seen as key to burnishing his credentials as opposition leader
Dozens of Tory MPs have urged Mr Cameron to row back on green energy policies.
Mr Barker said: ‘I understand the worries of these groups around specific sites, however that shouldn’t be seen as a rowing back to our wider commitment to the renewable agenda.’
However, Mr Hayes appeared to back the Tory rebels in an interview with the Mail in October when he signalled an end to new turbines, declaring ‘enough is enough’.
He revealed he had commissioned research on the impact of wind turbines on the landscape and whether they drive down house prices.
He has also asked scientists to examine noise complaints and more sinister suggestions that the turbines endanger military aircraft by blocking radar signals.
Mr Hayes said: ‘The onshore wind debate is skewing the whole debate, which is not good for the Government, not good for people and not good for the renewables lobby.
‘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.
‘Firstly, I have asked the planning minister to look again at the relationship between these turbines and the landscape.
‘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.
‘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.’
The comments sparked a furious row with his boss, Lib Dem Energy Secretary Ed Davey, who wrote to Mr Cameron warning Mr Hayes’ continued presence in the department risked future legal challenges.
But Number 10 did not respond, and in a list of ministerial responsibilities published last week, Mr Hayes was listed as having renewable energy in his brief.