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Wind Power

Volume 591: debated on Thursday 29 January 2015

5. What discussions she has had with her ministerial colleagues on the environmental case for supporting the development of onshore and offshore wind power. (907289)

The Secretary of State has been working with ministerial colleagues to implement the electricity market reform programme. This will deliver the greener energy and reliable supplies that the UK needs while minimising costs for consumers in the long term. Government planning guidance makes it clear that the need for renewable energy should not automatically override concerns about local impacts. When applications for wind turbines are determined, the impacts on matters such as ecology, noise, landscape, heritage and amenity are considered.

That is all very well, but 57% of applications for wind farms are rejected and a very large number are called in by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear.”] I note that Government Members are saying “Hear, hear.” None of us wants wind farms in the wrong place, but surely that is a vital question, because we need renewable energy in this country. It is about time the Minister worked with his colleagues to get a sensible way forward so that we can have alternative energy sources.

I am delighted to work alongside my Department of Energy and Climate Change colleagues on this issue. We have seen a dramatic increase in renewables such onshore and offshore wind. The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to say that development has to be in the right place. It is only right and proper that local issues are considered, and we have to be very clear about the way it is done. He is welcome to come to my constituency and see that there has been an increase in onshore wind. However, this has to be taken forward through the proper planning procedure.

If the Minister wants good will towards these hideous and useless items of industrial furniture, then he really does need to have another word with his planning inspectors. There is no way, had he done so, that they would have overturned the decision of the local authority against three wind turbines in the village of Langho that are incredibly unpleasant. The whole community and all the councillors were against them, but now the community has to put up with them. Will he have another word with his inspectors?

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman’s right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government will have heard his message.

Offshore wind has the potential not just to create green energy but to generate jobs, exports and research. Yet the support for offshore wind available through the current round of contracts for difference will not create the incentives needed for future investment. Frankly, this places in jeopardy the future of a fledgling industry. Will the Minister send a strong signal that the Government remain committed to offshore renewable energy?

We are having a fascinating discussion on an issue that is not at the core of what our Department does. However, I am happy to reassure the hon. Lady that this Department is committed to working with others to take forward the decarbonisation of our economy. Through the investments in local growth deals and so on, we have shown how we are working with people right across the United Kingdom to create jobs and to deliver the green growth that will help us to restore our economy and work towards a far more positive future.

In the case of the proposed extension to the Scout Moor wind farm near my constituency, my constituents are genuinely concerned that insufficient weight is being given to environmental considerations, such as landscape value, in the planning process. Does the Minister agree that, in considering such applications, sufficient weight must be given to the wishes and views of local constituents rather than to power and other matters?

As I said to other hon. Members earlier, it is important that such local factors are taken into consideration. That is why some developments are approved, and others are not. Such decisions have to be based on important planning considerations, including those raised by my hon. Friend.