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Rural Britain forced to accept solar farms and wind turbines in planning revolution  

John Hayes, the former energy secretary and Tory MP for South Holland and The Deepings in Lincolnshire, said the Government’s strategy was “welcome in its focus on how we can supply our energy independently” but added: “Apart from people with an electoral death wish I can’t imagine many people supporting industrial wind farms spoiling our green and pleasant land.”

Credit:  Boris Johnson announces commitment to make it harder to stop new energy projects from going ahead | By Rachel Millard and Emma Gatten, Environment Editor | The Telegraph | 8 April 2022 | www.telegraph.co.uk ~~

Homeowners who object to new solar panels, wind turbines and nuclear reactors face being ignored by planning officers under a once-in-a-generation overhaul of rules as part of Boris Johnson’s energy strategy.

The Prime Minister unveiled a commitment to make it harder to prevent new energy projects from going ahead as part of ambitious plans to slash gas use so the country cannot be “subject to blackmail” by Vladimir Putin.

Mr Johnson’s long-awaited strategy includes a push to build eight new nuclear reactors by 2050, carpet an area larger than Exmoor with solar panels and allow communities to be offered lower energy bills if they permit new onshore wind turbines to go ahead.

The Government said this would enable the UK to cut natural gas consumption by more than 40pc by 2030. However, the proposals are likely to spark opposition from Tory backbenchers and rural campaigners in the party’s heartlands.

Speaking at the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station under construction, Mr Johnson said the strategy was “about tackling the mistakes of the past and making sure that we are set well for the future and we are never again subject to the vagaries of the global oil and gas prices and we can’t be subject to blackmail, as it were, from people such as Vladimir Putin, we have energy security here in the UK”.

However, ministers admitted the plans will not reduce energy bills in the short term after the household price cap jumped by more than 50pc this month. Kwasi Kwarteng, the Business Secretary, said the strategy was “more of a medium-term three, four, five-year answer”.

The energy strategy was developed in the wake of Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Russia supplies around 40pc of the European Union’s gas imports and gas prices rocketed amid fears of disruption, triggering a cost of living crisis as household bills jumped in response.

As a result, Mr Johnson has dramatically stepped up plans to ditch fossil fuels.

In addition to more nuclear reactors, he also wants a fivefold increase in offshore wind to 50 gigawatts of capacity by 2030; a fivefold increase in solar panels, putting them on the roofs of every new house as well as in fields in sunny parts of England; and 10 gigawatts of hydrogen energy, up from its present level of little more than zero. North Sea gas projects will also be speeded up to provide a stopgap until green schemes come online.

Energy developers have long complained that lengthy planning processes and other bureaucratic hurdles are holding back efforts to build more renewable power.

The strategy document addresses some of those concerns. The Government has siad it will consult on “amending planning rules to strengthen policy in favour of development” of solar panels on non-protected land.

Experts said this is likely to mean that planning officers will not have to put as much weight on objections from people living nearby.

The strategy adds that it will ensure “communities continue to have a say and environmental protections remain in place”.

The time it takes to approve an offshore wind farm will also be reduced from four years to one year, including by setting up a fast-track consenting route.

Listed buildings will be able to install heat pumps – a green alternative to gas boilers – and energy-saving double glazing more easily.

National Policy Statements, which help the Secretary of State decide on nationally significant infrastructure applications and can also affect local planning decisions, will be strengthened to “reflect the importance of energy and net zero”.

Environmental “compensation” measures will be introduced to cut delays to offshore wind projects by allowing developers to offset, rather than eliminate, environmental effects such as danger to wildlife, while approvals for oil and gas projects will also be sped up.

The changes to planning rules are key to speeding up energy projects but risk sparking tensions with local communities and Tory MPs.

Several backbenchers have already raised concerns about the potential five-fold increase in solar panels, while a major offshore wind farm development was recently temporarily halted by a judicial review from a local campaigner.

Rebecca Windemer, a lecturer at University of the West of England, Bristol said: “When the Government is working out how to speed up our planning system, they need to make sure there is really early community engagement.”

Katie-Jo Luxton of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, said: “We are already seeing the dangers of taking the quickest option with developers and planners overlooking the potential damage to wildlife and destruction of wild spaces on land and at sea.

“Yet again the Government has again dodged committing to a coherent spatial plan to map out both energy reduction and clean energy protection.”

It comes as the Government seeks to encourage deployment of onshore wind plants nearby by cutting bills for people living nearby – a step deemed “retrograde” by some campaigners.

Tom Fyans, director of campaigns and policy at the CPRE, the countryside charity, said: “Subsidised energy bills for communities living near solar or wind farms are a regressive step – good proposals don’t need them. Any suggestion communities are being bribed to accept an otherwise unsuitable development could seriously damage trust in the planning system.”

Bob Blackman, Conservative MP for Harrow East and a member of the local government select committee, said he thought it unlikely communities would buy into it and relaxing planning rules was a potential source of conflict.

“We need to see the devil in the detail and what local people can consent to.”

John Hayes, the former energy secretary and Tory MP for South Holland and The Deepings in Lincolnshire, said the Government’s strategy was “welcome in its focus on how we can supply our energy independently” but added: “Apart from people with an electoral death wish I can’t imagine many people supporting industrial wind farms spoiling our green and pleasant land.”

Source:  Boris Johnson announces commitment to make it harder to stop new energy projects from going ahead | By Rachel Millard and Emma Gatten, Environment Editor | The Telegraph | 8 April 2022 | www.telegraph.co.uk

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

The copyright of this article resides with the author or publisher indicated. As part of its noncommercial effort to present the environmental, social, scientific, and economic issues of large-scale wind power development to a global audience seeking such information, National Wind Watch endeavors to observe “fair use” as provided for in section 107 of U.S. Copyright Law and similar “fair dealing” provisions of the copyright laws of other nations. Send requests to excerpt, general inquiries, and comments via e-mail.

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