WIND turbine campaigners in Swindon have welcomed Government plans to give more powers to communities to block onshore wind farms. But they still want to see a minimum separation distance between homes and turbines.

The Government announced yesterday that planning guidance in England would be changed to ensure local opposition could override national energy targets. But the measures will see a five-fold rise in the benefits paid by developers to communities hosting wind farms.

Campaign group Ill Wind, which successfully battled plans for wind turbines at the Honda plant, at South Marston, say the new guidance was a step in the right direction but should also include the minimum separation distance.

The Government said the measures would ensure local communities had a greater stake in the planning process. It said it expected the energy industry to improve its community benefit packages by the end of the year.

The subsidies – worth about £100,000 a year from a medium-sized farm – could be used to reduce energy bills or pay for energy efficiencies in the host community or fund other local initiatives.

Energy secretary Edward Davey said: “It is important that onshore wind is developed in a way that is truly sustainable – economically, environmentally and socially.

“Today’s announcement will ensurecommunities see the windfall from hosting developments near to them, not just the wind farm".

Des Fitzpatrick, the chairman of Ill Wind, said: “We have yet to review the details of the Government’s proposals but my initial reaction is approval of a greater say for local communities in the planning process. “Certainly the battle of the residents of Stratton and South Marston could have been easier if this approach had been in place when Ill Wind was set up to oppose the building of a wind farm in our community.

“However, I am concerned about the economic incentives to accept wind farms locally. We opposed the building of three 120 metre high turbines because they would be a noisy eyesore and selling out the quality of the environment for a few hundred pounds would never be part of our agenda.

“Also, Ill Wind, as a group, fought for a minimum safe separation distance between houses and wind farms. “We wanted 2km between us and the 120 metre high turbines. We would like this to figure in any planning guidelines.”

Planning approvals for wind farms in England have dropped in recent years, a situation the Government is keen to turn around. In 2008, about 70 per cent of applications were approved, but approvals were down to 35 per cent in 2012.