Thursday 18 June 2015
Communities and Local Government
I am today setting out new considerations to be applied to proposed wind energy development so that local people have the final say on wind farm applications, fulfilling the commitment made in the Conservative election manifesto.
Subject to the transitional provision set out below, these considerations will take effect from 18 June and should be taken into account in planning decisions. I am also making a limited number of consequential changes to planning guidance.
When determining planning applications for wind energy development involving one or more wind turbines, local planning authorities should only grant planning permission if:
the development site is in an area identified as suitable for wind energy development in a local or neighbourhood plan; and
following consultation, it can be demonstrated that the planning impacts identified by affected local communities have been fully addressed and therefore the proposal has their backing.
In applying these new considerations, suitable areas for wind energy development will need to have been allocated clearly in a local or neighbourhood plan. Maps showing the wind resource as favourable to wind turbines, or similar, will not be sufficient. Whether a proposal has the backing of the affected local community is a planning judgment for the local planning authority.
Where a valid planning application for a wind energy development has already been submitted to a local planning authority and the development plan does not identify suitable sites, the following transitional provision applies. In such instances, local planning authorities can find the proposal acceptable if, following consultation, they are satisfied it has addressed the planning impacts identified by affected local communities and therefore has their backing.
Energy and Climate Change
Onshore Wind Subsidies
The Government are committed to meeting objectives on cutting carbon emissions and the UK’s 2020 renewable energy targets. Onshore wind has deployed successfully to date and is an important part of our energy mix. We now have enough onshore wind in the pipeline, to be subsidised by bill payers through the renewable obligation or contracts for difference, for onshore wind to play a significant part in meeting our renewable energy commitments. The Government were elected with a commitment to end new subsidies for onshore wind and to change the law so that local people have the final say on onshore wind farm applications. We are now giving effect to these changes in full through the introduction of an Energy Bill this Session. The Energy Bill will devolve powers out of Whitehall so that applications for onshore wind farms are considered by democratically elected councils.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government is today making a statement on onshore wind development and local planning in England. This will set out new considerations to be applied to proposed wind energy development so that local people have the final say on wind farm applications.
I am now setting out proposals to end new subsidies for onshore wind, specifically in relation to the renewables obligation (RO). Onshore wind is currently subsidised through three schemes: contracts for difference (CfDs) introduced by the last Government, and the renewables obligation and feed-in tariffs introduced previously.
With regard to CfDs, we have the tools available to implement our manifesto commitments on onshore wind and I will set out how I will do so when announcing plans in relation to further CfD allocations. I will also shortly be considering options for continued support for community onshore wind projects through the feed-in tariff (FITs) as part of the review that my Department is conducting this year.
The RO supports the overwhelming majority of current and future onshore wind capacity. Unlike CfDs, which introduce competition for subsidy and therefore drive costs down more quickly, the RO is demand-led and so poses more risk of pressure on consumer bills from increased demand for the subsidy. I am therefore announcing today that we will be introducing primary legislation to close the RO to new onshore wind from 1 April 2016—a year earlier than planned.
My Department’s analysis indicates that, after taking into account an early closure, onshore wind deployment under the RO will be in the region of 11.6 GW. In addition to the 0.75 GW of onshore wind that has secured a CfD, this puts us above the middle of the range set out in the EMR delivery plan, our best estimate of what we would need to meet our 2020 targets. It is therefore appropriate to curtail further deployment of onshore wind, balancing the interests of onshore wind developers with those of the wider public.
To protect investor confidence in the wider renewables sector, I am proposing a grace period which would continue to give access to support under the RO to those projects which, as of today, already have planning consent, a grid connection offer and acceptance, and evidence of land rights for the site on which their project will be built. I believe this draws the line in the right place but I want to hear views from the industry and other stakeholders before framing the terms of the legislation.
I intend that any final proposals are applied across Great Britain and I am in the process of consulting Scottish and Welsh Ministers on this matter. Since energy policy is devolved in Northern Ireland, I am currently in discussions with Ministers there to agree how our commitments on onshore wind will be implemented in Northern Ireland.
House of Commons Commission
Palace of Westminster (Restoration and Renewal)
(Representing the House of Commons Commission): An independent appraisal of options for the restoration and renewal of the Palace of Westminster is published today. It was requested by the House of Commons Commission and the House of Lords House Committee in the last Parliament following a pre-feasibility study and preliminary strategic business case which was published in October 2012. The new study has been carried out by a consortium consisting of Deloitte Real Estate, AECOM and HOK. The IOA (together with two volumes of detailed supporting materials) is available on the Parliament website at: www.restorationand renewal. parliament.uk.
The restoration and renewal of the Palace of Westminster will be a major challenge facing Parliament in the coming years and is certain to be a matter of public interest. The process to establish a Joint Committee, which will make recommendations to both Houses on how to proceed, is already under way. It will be for the Joint Committee to decide how best to carry out its task.
EU Transport Council
I attended the second Transport Council under the Latvian presidency (the presidency) in Luxembourg on Thursday 11 June.
The Council adopted a general approach on the proposed directive laying down technical standards for inland waterway vessels. There was broad support from member states and the Commission for both the text and the related creation of the European Committee for Inland Navigation Standards (CESNI). The Commission indicated that it would now attempt to capitalise on this success by looking to harmonise other standards in the inland waterway sector, including training for crew.
The presidency appreciated the support of all member states and the Commission in their efforts to reach agreement with the European Parliament on the complex technical pillar of the fourth railway package.
On the market pillar, however, the presidency was clear that more time was needed. I welcomed the improvements to date to address concerns on over-regulation but pressed that more needed to be done to ensure that competition could flourish and rail continued to be an attractive investment. In highlighting the success of the UK’s liberalised and competitive rail market, I invited other member states to visit the UK to learn from our experience. The main point of contention was the nature of possible exemptions from competitive tendering with the Commission supporting an exemption based on performance criteria while some member states called for an exemption based on their share of the EU rail market being less than 1%. I strongly pressed that any exemptions to competitive tendering had to be based on objective criteria and fully justified.
On air passenger rights, the presidency presented its progress report.
I underlined the UK’s strong support for the improvements in air passenger rights while reinforcing our position that the balanced and proportionate trigger points of 5/9/12 hours should be maintained, a view strongly echoed by some member states. I also voiced strong concerns on the proposed inclusion of a compensation scheme for missed connecting flights, highlighting the negative impacts for both passengers and airlines. Two member states called for a lower trigger point of three hours with another suggesting anything other than including three hours in line with interpretative case law from CJEU rulings was a step backwards in passenger rights. There was no discussion on the application of the regulation to Gibraltar airport.
Under any other business, the Commission presented the conclusions of its interim evaluation on road safety, taking stock of progress towards the 50% reduction in fatalities by 2020. With regards to next steps the Commission indicated that it was considering proposing a target for reducing serious injuries.
On the Trans-European Network—Transport (TEN-T) and Connecting Europe facility (CEF), the Christophersen- Bodewig-Secchi report which looks at making the best use of the new EU financial schemes for transport infrastructure projects, was presented. The authors called for urgent action to ensure the success of the European fund for strategic investments (EFSI) for the transport sector and presented 12 recommendations for bringing private capital to the transport sector. The Commissioner invited member state views on these recommendations ahead of the TEN-T days set to take place in Riga on 22 and 23 June.
The presidency presented the outcome of the third Asia-Europe meeting (ASEM) Transport Ministers’ meeting where ASEM member countries made a strong commitment to fostering closer co-operation in the field of transport connectivity.
The Commission updated the Council on the Shift2Rail research and innovation programme. The Commission regretted the delay in the recruitment of the executive director but considered the remainder of the programme was on track. I joined several member states in thanking the Commission for the update and encouraging all efforts to ensure an accelerated deployment of the programme.
The Luxembourg Minister for Sustainable Development and Infrastructure presented the work programme of their upcoming presidency stating their focus would remain on the fourth railway package and achieving a general approach on the market pillar by the October Transport Council. He invited Ministers to an informal Council on 7 October focusing on cycling, followed by the formal Council on 8 October where there would be a policy debate on the Commission’s review of its transport white paper. At the December Council there would be a policy debate on social conditions in road transport.