Environment

Climate campaigners praise U-turn on onshore wind farms

Sunak previously pledged to oppose all new wind turbines during the leadership contest.

onshore wind farm

(Credit: Abby Anaday/Unsplash)

Climate organisations have praised Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s decision to overturn the ban on building onshore wind farms, after he previously pledged to oppose new wind turbines during his leadership campaign.

Greenpeace UK’s policy director Dr Doug Parr said, “This imminent U-turn is like a long-delayed train…Onshore wind could have been designed as the perfect solution to the climate and energy crisis. We desperately need affordable, clean and ready-to-go homegrown energy, and onshore wind ticks all those boxes – and it’s popular to boot.”

Onshore wind farms have been effectively banned since 2015, when former Prime Minister David Cameron excluded them from the government’s green energy subsidies.

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Climate charity Possible said that while the move was “promising,” it didn’t go far enough. 

Alethea Warrington, campaigns manager at Possible, said: “Today’s announcement will still leave new onshore wind in England with more planning constrats than dirty new coal mines, and communities who want their own clean energy projects will struggle to get on with the job.”

“We’re in an unprecedented energy crisis as we head into a cold and insecure winter,” she added.

The 2016 ban meant the UK has been more reliant on fossil fuels than renewable energy as prices have skyrocketed, costing households an estimated £800 million extra in energy costs this winter.

The lifting of the ban came after an amendment to the Levelling Up Bill signed by 35 MPs, including former prime ministers Boris Johnson and Liz Truss, to allow new onshore wind projects in England.

In a letter to MPs, Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove said: “We believe that decisions on onshore wind are best made by local representatives who know their areas best and underpinned by democratic accountability.”

Under the new proposals, support from local communities is required for the turbines to be built.

Onshore wind farms can lead to people being less reliant on fossil fuels, thus reducing overall environmental impact as wind energy is renewable, lower energy bills for consumers, as well as the creation of tens of thousands of green jobs. 

onshore wind farm
Onshore wind farms were removed from the government’s green subsidies in 2015. (Credit: Andrew Lee/Flickr)

However, critics state that the power generated from wind farms are subject to changing wind speeds and they produce less energy than offshore wind farms. 

Many local groups are opposed to wind farms as they can be big and bulky. Comments on Facebook groups dedicated to sharing information about wind energy argue that wind farms are a “blight” on the local landscape, and that the process of building wind farms disrupts the residents’ lives. 

Martin Glyn Murray, the admin for a Facebook group named Gaerwen Wind Farm Information, said: “Although I am in favour of electricity generation through the use of wind, turbines, I cannot agree that it is a sensible use of land when an area of natural beauty is spoiled. Britain is a tiny country and to diminish the areas of natural beauty and tranquility makes no sense to me.”

Murray suggested that wind farms should be built off shore and that the land should be saved “for better uses.”

A statement from the Department for Levelling Up confirmed that places like national parks and green belt land outside major cities would not see any wind farms.

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