03 July, 2013
Yorkshire Post, Mason Boycott-Owen
The Government has been accused of condemning millions of families to higher energy bills following reports that its commitment to ending the ban on onshore wind will be delayed until after the next election.
Ministers are currently consulting on how to end the de-facto ban on new onshore wind farms in England, after they were made almost
impossible to build due to reforms by David Cameron’s government.
Since Rishi Sunak, inset, took power, he has come under increasing pressure from backbench MPs, as well as Labour, to lift the ban, after he suggested that he would keep it in place during last summer’s leadership contest.
However, sources told The Observer newspaper that the consultation would result in a minimal relaxation of planning rules, which would avoid new
onshore windfarms getting the go-ahead before a general election.
It is thought that allowing new wind farms could harm Tory hopes in rural areas where residents oppose the building of new turbines, despite the high levels of support amongst the wider
Senior Conservatives and green energy campaigners yesterday accused the Government of backtracking on its climate commitments. “The Government has made a clear public commitment to ending the de facto ban on onshore wind where local communities consent,” said Simon Clarke, the former Levelling Up Secretary.
“I have no basis to believe anyone would be mistaken enough to believe this is something they can now resile from. “We needn’t go back round all the
reasons why onshore wind makes sense – lower bills, greater energy security, lower carbon emissions, thousands of good jobs in deprived communities…and nobody is proposing their introduction where communities do not agree.”
The consultation into the planning rules around onshore wind was hoped to pave the way to new turbines being built in England as part of the UK’s drive towards net zero and energy sustainability following the war in Ukraine.
It comes after Rishi Sunak came under further criticism for his climate credentials from departing Environment Minister Lord Goldsmith.
In his resignation letter to the Prime Minister last week, he said that Mr Sunak was “simply uninterested” in the environment and that the Conservatives would be punished for the “apathy in the face of the greatest challenge we have faced”.
“Losing an Environment Minister over the Prime Minister’s perceived indifference to climate change was careless – failing to drop the ban on new onshore wind farm developments in England would be reckless," Sam Richard, the founder of Britain Remade, told The Yorkshire Post.
“If, as suggested, he is planning on rowing back on the minor commitments he has already made, then he will be condemning millions of people to high energy bills as they already struggle with the cost of living crisis.
“Onshore wind is one of the cheapest forms of energy available and the building of new turbines in local communities is overwhelmingly backed by the majority of people across the country.
“Dropping the ban will not only unlock a tsunami of clean energy projects and give England, it will deliver thousands of jobs in Britain’s former industrial heartlands, including in Yorkshire.”
Government sources pushed back against the idea that the consultation would be delayed until after the next election, with a response set to be published in due course. The consultation, which ran until the start of March this year received almost 26,000 responses including from key industry stakeholders.