Skip to main content

Onshore Wind Turbines

Volume 561: debated on Monday 15 April 2013

11. What recent discussions he has had with representatives of the renewables industry regarding onshore wind turbine planning applications; and if he will make a statement. (150738)

Perhaps it is a matter of keeping the best for last, or there is nothing in my portfolio, or it may be an attempt to keep me away from the Dispatch Box—the House will decide.

Regarding the question, Ministry of Defence officials and my colleague the Minister with responsibility for defence personnel, welfare and veterans met the chief executive of RenewableUK in November to discuss matters relating to both offshore and onshore wind turbine applications. MOD officials also attend the aviation management board made up of key wind energy stakeholders, chaired by the Department of Energy and Climate Change. My Department routinely engages with developers and consenting authorities in its consideration of onshore wind turbine planning applications.

I am sure the Minister is aware that despite the installation over the past few years of a number of radar systems that can distinguish between turbines and planes, the number of MOD objections to turbine applications doubled between the first part of 2012 and the last part of 2012 as a percentage of applications. Can the Minister assure me that his Department continues to honour the memorandum of understanding between the wind energy industry and the MOD in 2008?

The hon. Gentleman and I share a deep commitment to renewable energy, including wind energy onshore, going back to the days of the parliamentary renewable and sustainable energy group, when I was the vice-chairman and he was the chairman. There are two reasons, as I understand it, for the increase in the number of objections. The first is that there has been a plethora of applications for wind turbines onshore, and many of those are pretty close to airfields and other radar installations. The second is that, because of the plethora of applications, we are no longer able to provide the pre-application advice as we did before—there are so many of them.

RAF Staxton Wold in my constituency is within an 8-mile radius of a raft of onshore planning applications. Surely the MOD must have a view as to possible interference with and collision between radar and these obstructions.

I am not aware of the individual circumstances surrounding those applications. However, I do not think we are particularly concerned about collision with turbines—I hope I am not being unduly optimistic about that. Each application is judged on its merits, and the MOD will object only if it believes that a wind turbine will interfere with the radar or flying activities.