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Onshore Wind Farms

Volume 741: debated on Tuesday 28 November 2023

This has been a record year for onshore wind, which is already the largest renewables technology. The latest contract for difference added an unprecedented 1.7 GW.

The Minister seems to be comparing figures I have not seen. If it is a record year, why have we seen such a dramatic drop in planning applications for onshore wind farms and in the number of onshore wind farms delivered? From a peak of 64 applications in 2011, it went right down to zero in 2019 and now to 10 in 2022, the latest figures the House of Commons Library could provide. That does not seem like a record year to me. Is it not time the Government stopped shilly-shallying on onshore wind and backed the builders, not the blockers?

The hon. Lady is renowned in the House for her arithmetic skills, but in this case they seem to have failed her. The 1.7 GW is a tremendous success. I share her enthusiasm for onshore wind where communities support it. In September, the Government announced changes to planning policy for onshore wind in England to help make it easier and quicker for local planning authorities to consider and, where appropriate, approve onshore wind projects where there is local support.

In the Kettering constituency there are 30 large wind turbines. Together with solar panels, they generate enough renewable electricity to power all 45,000 homes in the constituency. Is this not yet another case of where Kettering leads, others follow?

My hon. Friend has championed, does champion and, I am sure, will continue for many years to champion the good people of Kettering, and the fact that they are providing such leadership on net zero and the delivery of renewables after our parlous inheritance from the Labour party. Let us make sure that we never go back to a system in which renewables are not brought on to our grid in the way they are today.

The Minister is being a little shameless with his figures. We really ought to look at what is continuing to happen in England. In England, industry and other bodies warned that the supposed changes to onshore planning restrictions that were announced in September were far too timid to make any real difference to the dearth of new onshore wind.

I recently visited the site in Leighton Buzzard of the only turbine that has been put in place onshore in England since those supposed restrictions were lifted. It turns out that it has been in the planning process since 2014, and is not on a new site anyway. The Department’s renewable energy planning database shows that there are precisely zero new schemes in the pipeline in England. Should the Minister not go away and reconsider the remaining planning and funding restrictions on onshore wind so that it really can get going again?

As I have said, I share the enthusiasm on both sides of the House for onshore wind. The Government have set regulations that require onshore wind developers to consult communities in advance of submitting a planning application, as well as having it consulted on post-submission. We make no apology for rolling out this transformation in renewable technologies in concert with communities, rather than seeking to ride roughshod over them.