Wind Farms

Oral Answers to Questions — Environment – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 17th May 1995.

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Photo of John Hutton John Hutton , Barrow and Furness 2:30 pm, 17th May 1995

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make a statement about planning guidance for wind farms. [23202]

Photo of John Gummer John Gummer Secretary of State for Environment

The Government have issued planning guidance for wind farms in planning policy guidance note 22, or PPG 22, which was entitled "Renewable Energy" and published in February 1993.

Photo of John Hutton John Hutton , Barrow and Furness

While recognising the important environmental benefits of renewable energy, especially wind farms, is the Secretary of State aware of the concern felt by people living in Askam and Ireleth in my constituency about plans to develop wind farms near there? Will he consider strengthening and amending paragraphs 59 to 69 of PPG 22 with a view to making specific reference to the siting of large wind turbines close to towns and villages?

Photo of John Gummer John Gummer Secretary of State for Environment

I have to be convinced that we need to tighten it further. I have not yet seen a case in which the local authority has not been able to stop the development of wind farms in circumstances where the intrusion is such as that described by the hon. Gentleman. One of the problems with wind farms is people's failure to recognise that you don't get owt for nowt: wind farms may be a clean way of producing electricity, but they have a real visual and noise impact. Some people who object to another form of energy demonstrate against it and demand wind farms, but as soon as one is proposed they demonstrate against that as well. We have to recognise that wind farms are suitable only in places where they will not have an impact of the type already covered in the planning policy guidance note.

Photo of Mr Nick Hawkins Mr Nick Hawkins , Blackpool South

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the irony of the history of wind farms—this is true of Lancashire, Yorkshire, Cumbria and other parts of the United Kingdom—is the way in which the single-issue lobby groups have always dominated the Labour party's agenda, on the environment and everything else? Groups used to call for such things until they realised how unpopular their proposals were. Now they oppose them. That is the way of all single-issue lobby groups: they can never decide whether they are in favour of anything, and as soon as they get something they have campaigned for they realise that they did not want it in the first place.

Photo of John Gummer John Gummer Secretary of State for Environment

I agree with my hon. Friend. I was never able to attend any kind of meeting on nuclear power, for example, without being told that the real answer was to have windmills. The moment one proposes windmills, however, the real environmental problem arises, to which I shall return. We need a mix of energy supplies and we should recognise that to get energy we must accept disadvantages. Those disadvantages occur even when we consider harnessing wind power.