Rishi Sunak says 'no' to onshore wind turbines in August
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In a major U-turn, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has pledged to relax the restrictions on building onshore wind farms in England, after the Government faced significant pressure from Tory rebels to lift the de facto ban. Handing the decision back to local communities, he added that there will no longer be any requirement for almost-unanimous support for new wind farm developments to go ahead. The department for Levelling up noted that a rule requiring new turbines to be built on pre-designated land would be amended after over 30 backbenchers threatened to spark a Tory Civil War.
As the fossil fuel energy crisis, triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, has sent bills soaring over the past year, experts have repeatedly demanded that the Government drop its opposition to the energy source.
Speaking to Express.co.uk, Chris Venables, head of politics at Green Alliance, said: “This Government concession does mark progress towards finally removing the ban on onshore wind in England.
“Putting people at the heart of decision-making is, of course, vital but across the country those same communities are facing eye-watering energy bills as the temperature outside plummets. This nationally-imposed veto on one of the cheapest, quickest ways to generate clean electricity needs to be removed as soon as possible.”
Meanwhile, Jess Ralston, Head of Energy at the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) commented: “The ban on onshore wind has been a seven-year anomaly in UK energy policy, keeping household bills higher and the UK more dependent on foreign gas. Whether deployment speeds up will now come down to the detail of the planning rule changes.
“The next big planning call from the government will be the Cumbria coal mine. With the mine’s particular type of coal no use for the UK power or steel industries and the UK having led the global campaign to phase-out coal, a lot rides on Michael Gove’s decision.”
Zoisa North-Bond, CEO of Octopus Energy Group’s generation arm, says: “Onshore wind is one of the cheapest and quickest forms of energy we can generate right here on our soil – and by removing the red tape, we can build it fast for communities that want it.
“We’re huge fans of onshore wind and so is the overwhelming majority of the British public. Over 16,000 people have asked us for a wind turbine in their community.
“And through Winder, our digital match-making platform for wind, we’ve already identified 2.3GW of new onshore wind capacity with local support.
“By putting this green power in the hands of supportive local communities, we can bring cheap local energy to more people, increasing our energy security and reducing our dependence on imported fossil fuels.”
According to a recent survey by YouGov, 9 in 10 people (87 percent) said that they would support building an onshore wind turbine in their community if it meant cheaper bills.
Analysis has shown that households may have to pay a collective £800million extra for energy bills this winter due to a 2016 decision to ban new onshore wind farm developments.
Research from the Energy and Climate Change Intelligence Unit (ECIU) found that developers could have built enough turbines to provide clean, cheaper energy to 1.5 million homes this winter if it was never in place.
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A statement from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, said: “The Government commits to launching a technical consultation to explore how local authorities demonstrate local support and respond to views of their communities when considering onshore wind development in England.
“Decisions on onshore wind sites will continue to be made at a local level as these are best made by local representatives who know their areas best and are democratically accountable to the local community.
“To deliver a more localist approach, and its commitments in the British Energy Security Strategy, the Government will consult on proposed changes to national planning policy.
“Under the proposals, planning permission would be dependent on a project being able to demonstrate local support and appropriately address any impacts identified by the local community.”
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