Rudd to fast-track laws to block onshore wind

18th May 2015


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New energy and climate secretary Amber Rudd has "put a rocket" under the team at Decc to ensure local communities are in charge of deciding onshore wind planning applications, she said.

Next week’s Queen’s speech will also include legislation to remove subsidies for onshore wind, according to comments by Rudd in yesterday’s Sunday Times.

Rudd said she was hopeful that the changes would be law by the middle of next year, adding: “I’ve put a rocket under the team to get it done, putting the local community back in charge. We’re looking to do the primary legislation as soon as we can.”

The article says that the community veto will apply to “all future onshore wind farms”, but only mentions changing the rules for those over 50MW. These go through the planning process for nationally significant infrastructure projects (NSIP), led by the Planning Inspectorate.

However, so far, only three onshore wind farms have gone through the NSIP regime, all of which are in Wales, according to the government’s own database of all pending or decided NSIP projects. The only English onshore wind project going through the NSIP process is a wind farm extension in Keadby in Lincolnshire, for which an application is expected next year.

In the newspaper article, Rudd said that local authorities would be “duty bound” to consult residents on wind farm planning applications. But pre-application consultation has been compulsory for onshore wind applications since an amendment to the Localism Act in 2013.

No-one from Decc’s press office was available to clarify Rudd’s comments in relation to planning rules or subsidies for onshore wind. A spokesperson for the communities department (DCLG) said it could not comment on comments made by the secretary of state for Decc.

A spokesperson for trade body RenewableUK said that it was unlikely there would be further applications for onshore wind farms over 50MW in England since most sites that were sufficiently large had already been developed.

However, she said that applications for onshore wind in England already “dropped off a cliff” last year due to the intervention of the then communities secretary Eric Pickles, who refused a large number of wind farms after taking over appeal cases from the Planning Inspectorate.

Local authority approval rates for onshore wind have also dropped significantly, with 47% approved in 2014, compared with 70% the previous year, according to Renewable UK's data.

Maf Smith, deputy chief executive at RenewableUK, said the trade body was concerned at suggestions of premature curtailment of onshore wind development. Onshore wind is the cheapest way to decarbonise electricity and needs to be kept as an option, especially with the Paris climate negotiations coming up, he said, adding that: “This is a sector with strong public support, and any blocking based on the views of a vociferous minority will ring alarm bells for all infrastructure investors.”

Rudd told the Sunday Times that the main difference to energy policy between the previous collation and the Conservative majority was that the new government could press ahead with its plans to exploit shale gas. Shale gas extraction would be allowed under national parks, although drilling would not, she said. Previously, Decc indicated that there would be a total ban in national parks and other “protected areas”, which it said it would define after a consultation this summer.

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