New energy bill to block only English onshore wind

27th May 2015


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IEMA

An energy bill to take onshore wind out of the planning regime for major infrastructure will not apply in Scotland or Northern Ireland.

The energy bill announced today in the Queen's speech will "change the law in line with the manifesto commitment to give local communities the final say on wind farm applications", according to an accompanying document from the energy and climate change department (Decc).

Under the plans, existing consenting powers for wind farms over 50MW will be transferred from the secretary of state to local planning authorities, says Decc.

It adds: "These changes will be supported by changes to the national planning policy framework to give effect to the manifesto commitment that local communities should have the final say on planning applications for wind farms."

But the new rules will not apply in Scotland or Northern Ireland, says Decc. This follows a demand by Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon for greater say over any changes to energy policy, in particular to onshore wind planning policy and subsidies.

There are currently only two onshore wind farms in England going through the major infrastructure planning (NSIP) process, according to the government's own data. These are an extension of up to 24MW to the Keadby wind farm, and the 69MW Nocton Fen wind farm, both in the north east of England. Applications for both are due next year.

There are three wind farms over 50MW in the pipeline for Wales. However, Decc says planning powers for Wales will be confirmed separately. An independent commission set up to consider further devolution in Wales recommended that the country should decide for itself how to manage decisions on onshore wind applications up to 350MW.

Decc says the government's commitment to end new subsidies for onshore wind will be delivered separately, with measures to be announced soon. It confirmed that devolved administrations would be consulted on any changes to subsidy regimes.

The energy bill will also establish the oil and gas authority (OGA). It will regulate offshore oil and gas extraction, taking over regulatory responsibilities from the secretary of state, although this will not include environmental regulations.

The only other reference to energy or the environment in the Queen's speech was on climate change. She said: "My government will seek effective global collaboration to sustain economic recovery and to combat climate change, including at the climate change conference in Paris later this year."

Commentators from the environmental sector said that the lack of legislation on environmental issues in the queen's speech was a missed opportunity. IEMA's policy and practice lead Josh Fothergill said: "IEMA members were disappointed by the prominence that environment and sustainability issues had throughout the election campaign and it is frustrating that this has continued with today's opening of parliament.

"With the UK's economic recovery and future prosperity absolutely dependent on the health and wealth of the environment I think today's underplay of these issues is disappointing."

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