Wind turbine in Aberdeenshire

Onshore wind farm ban set to be overturned

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Rishi Sunak is planning to revoke the ban on building new onshore wind farms in order to appease Conservative MPs, The Telegraph has reported.

The UK government is reportedly set to change the laws that ban the construction of new onshore wind farms as a result of internal party pressures. 

The rule changes follow the proposal of an amendment to the Energy Bill – set to be voted on by the government on Tuesday 5 September – that would make it easier for councils to pass planning applications for new turbines in places where there is public support. 

The amendment was put forward by the former Cop26 president Alok Sharma, and received the support of 20 MPs from all wings of the party including former Prime Minister Liz Truss. The move has also received backing from the Labour Party, meaning only six more Tory backbenchers would need to vote in favour to overturn the government’s majority.

“The government committed to changing planning rules by the end of April 2023 to overturn the de facto ban on onshore wind, but this has not happened to date,” Sharma said. 

“This amendment therefore seeks merely to deliver on the government’s own promise and help to unlock investment in one of the cheapest forms of energy, and ultimately bring down household bills and improve the UK’s energy security.”

Last year, Sunak had pledged to keep the onshore wind farm ban in place, but he was forced to retract his pledge after coming under pressure from his own MPs.

Following a week of negotiations, a minister is now expected to submit a statement to the Commons this week committing to changing the existing planning rules. Once this takes place, Tory MPs would drop the amendment.

The change in the rules would end the restrictions imposed in 2016, where an objection from just a single resident can prevent a wind farm from being built.

Instead, the changes would mean requirements are loosened so sites can be built “when it has been demonstrated that the planning impacts have been satisfactorily addressed”.

One Tory MP told The Telegraph that Sunak had little choice on the matter, as the amendment was supported by “senior people from all wings of the party”.

“It’s great to see ministers listening to concerns and, providing local communities are happy, it will make net zero easier and cheaper too,” another added. 

Last December, research from the Energy and Climate Change Intelligence Unit (ECIU) found that, without the 2016 ban, onshore wind could have generated enough energy to power 1.5 million homes through the winter and saved consumers a total of £800m on their bills.

According to RenewableUK, the country currently has 14,200 megawatts (MW) of onshore wind capacity operational, which provides around 10 per cent of the UK’s power. Prior to the imposition of the de facto ban, annual deployment totalled around 300MW – equivalent to 100-150 turbines per year.

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