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Mid-Wales Connection Project

Volume 563: debated on Thursday 6 June 2013

5. What assessment he has made of the level of support for onshore wind in those areas affected by the mid-Wales connection project. (158079)

Financial support for onshore wind from 2013 to 2017 was reduced by 10% from 1 April 2013. I hope my hon. Friend will welcome this morning’s announcement that local people will now have more control over wind farm developments in their area. They will be consulted earlier and they will have more say against turbines that are poorly sited or inadequately justified.

Since power to decide large onshore wind farms—those over 50 MW—is not devolved to the Welsh Government, will my right hon. Friend reassure me that the changes to planning policy that will be announced this morning will apply to the wind farms that the mid-Wales connection is being built to accommodate?

I am sure my hon. Friend will understand that I cannot comment on any specific wind farm proposal that is subject to the local planning authority and potentially to the Planning Inspectorate and Ministers, but as he will shortly hear in more detail from the unstarred question which I think you have allowed, Mr Speaker, the planning guidance is to be clarified to ensure that the visual impact of turbines, the cumulative impact of turbines and local factors are taken more clearly into account before consent is given.

I welcome local authorities being allowed to make their own decisions on the merits of wind turbine applications. Does the Minister agree that setting excessive minimum separation distances, as proposed in a private Member’s Bill in the House of Lords last year, or more recently by Wiltshire council, only serves to deny local communities the chance to have their say?

I am not persuaded that minimum distances are the answer, because it is important to take into account the factors that apply to every specific application and these things should be judged locally and individually on a case-by-case basis. However, in the clearer planning guidance that is being issued today it is the visual impact as much as the siting of the turbines that will now be taken more fully into account.