Onshore wind farms will not be forced on rural areas in England despite a drive to expand domestic energy generation, the Government has said.
Ministers are leaving the door open to relaxing planning laws that have largely prevented their development since 2015 – but communities must consent to them.
It means new sites will likely be confined to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, where planning rules are less restrictive.
Boris Johnson also wants more offshore wind and is said to have called for a ‘colossal wind farm you can float out into the middle of the Irish Sea’.
The Prime Minister is expected to finally unveil his delayed energy security strategy on Thursday after weeks of wrangling over the cost of a massive push for nuclear.
Up to seven new nuclear power stations could be built by 2050 as part of the Government’s ambition to reduce Britain’s reliance on the international energy market following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said the UK should ‘aspire’ to nuclear making up a quarter of the energy generation mix.
‘But obviously, you’re not going to suddenly have six new nuclear stations in the first three years.
‘I mean, it’s physically impossible to do that,’ he told the Sunday Telegraph.
Ministers will also launch a development vehicle called Great British Nuclear to identify potential sites, cut through planning red tape and raise private finance for developments.
And Mr Kwarteng said onshore wind and fracking could form part of the energy mix as long as there is ‘community consent’.
He added: ‘We don’t live in a totalitarian country where the Government, the man or woman in Whitehall, can say “right, we’re going to do this”, without some large measure of consent from local communities.
‘And in both of those technologies, frankly, there has been considerable local opposition. That doesn’t mean to say we’re shutting the door on both, but it does mean that any movement has to have a large measure of local consent.’
But his Cabinet colleague Grant Shapps yesterday called onshore wind turbines an ‘eyesore’ and said he does not want to see a flurry of new ones.
The Transport Secretary told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme: ‘I don’t favour a vast increase in onshore wind farms, for pretty obvious reasons – they sit on the hills there and can create something of an eyesore for communities as well as actual problems of noise.
‘So I think for reasons of environmental protection, the way to go with this is largely, not entirely, but largely off-sea.’
He suggested nuclear and offshore wind would be more prominent in the energy strategy, adding: ‘I don’t think you want a huge expansion of onshore wind.’ But Labour’s business spokesman Jonathan Reynolds told LBC radio: ‘I would have no objection at all to living close to an onshore wind farm.’
Sources said last night that ministers had not yet finalised the strategy but that would be done early this week.
A Government spokesman said: ‘Next week we will set out an ambitious plan to supercharge our use of a diverse range of renewables, including offshore wind, solar and hydrogen, all underpinned by nuclear and continued support for our North Sea oil and gas sector. Any decisions on onshore wind will always be subject to consent from local communities.’
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