Amendment 282K

Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill - Report (8th Day) – in the House of Lords at 8:33 pm on 18 September 2023.

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Baroness Hayman:

Moved by Baroness Hayman

282K: After Clause 226, insert the following new Clause—“Onshore wind development(1) In section 15(2) of the Planning Act 2008 (generating stations) omit paragraph (aa).(2) In the Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure) (England) Order 2015 (S.I. 2015/595) omit Part 2 (pre-application consultation).(3) Within six months of the passing of this Act, the Secretary of State must revise and republish all relevant national planning guidance—(a) to reflect the reinstatement of onshore wind in the Planning Act 2008 under subsection (1), and(b) to ensure parity with other renewable and low carbon development, including but not limited to, removing restrictions on onshore wind energy development in the National Planning Policy Framework and the energy National Policy Statements.”Member’s explanatory statementThis amendment intends to reinstate onshore wind development into the planning system for the purposes of meeting the United Kingdom’s carbon account target under section 1 of the Climate Change Act 2008, and providing a level playing field in planning terms for onshore wind development compared with other forms of development.

Photo of Baroness Hayman Baroness Hayman Crossbench

My Lords, in 2015 David Cameron’s Government dealt a hammer blow to the development of onshore wind power in England. They imposed an effective moratorium on new turbines and the renewal of old ones, cutting off this country’s supply of cheap, clean energy. My Amendment 282K seeks to reverse that damaging and irrational ban and create a level playing field for onshore wind compared with other renewable and low-carbon energy developments by reverting to the pre-2015 moratorium. I am grateful for the support of the noble Lords, Lord Deben and Lord Teverson, and the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman of Ullock.

Removing planning barriers to onshore wind would not only help us achieve our net-zero targets; it would reduce bills, create jobs, boost the economy and increase energy security. The Government have at last acknowledged the need for action in this area and taken some baby steps aimed at easing planning barriers. I of course welcome the changes, particularly those enabling repowering and life-extension of existing sites, and I agree that community views and benefits are important factors. However, what has been done is simply not adequate to meet the scale of the challenge—a challenge that has been highlighted in numerous reports.

The potential for onshore wind is substantial. Industry evidence shows that doubling onshore wind capacity in the UK by 2030 could reduce consumer bills by £16.3 billion, boost the economy by £45 billion a year and help create 27,000 skilled jobs. However, even with the Government’s proposed changes, we will still have a far more onerous and complex planning process for onshore wind projects compared with other renewables, and therefore major practical constraints to uptake.

As I have said, this problem has been repeatedly brought to public attention. In April, the National Infrastructure Commission’s Infrastructure Progress Review emphasised that

“the uncertainty around building onshore wind … in England has undercut the government’s commitment to deploy renewable generation”.

The CCC’s 2023 progress report highlighted that the Government do not have a target for onshore wind capacity, even though it is a valuable part of the energy mix and a “required outcome” to achieve decarbonisation of the power sector by 2035. The Skidmore review asked specifically for a task force to support onshore wind.

Industry has made it clear that government measures are inadequate. To quote RenewableUK, they

“do not go far enough” and, as a result, will not encourage

“investment into new onshore wind at the scale needed”.

There is still ambiguity in the new wording of the National Planning Policy Framework, which maintains uncertainty, and, given the high capital costs of developments like this, the investment risk remains high and developers will inevitably be cautious.

Ironically, politicians’ nervousness about, and sometimes antipathy to, backing onshore wind is not shared by the public. The Government’s recent community benefits consultation shows that 79% of people support the use of onshore wind, and earlier this month YouGov polling for the ECIU showed that 76% of the public said they would support new onshore wind in their own localities.

I urge the Government to accept this amendment and create a level playing field for onshore wind. At the very least, I hope the Minister will recognise the need for clarity on the terminology used in the NPPF, and for a date for the publishing of the outcome of the developing local partnerships in England consultation. Most of all, given the widespread scepticism about their proposals working, we need a commitment that the Government will review and publish the impact of the changes proposed to see whether they do, in fact, lead to an increase in planning permissions, or whether—as I suspect, and I hope the House will agree—more needs to be done to allow onshore wind to play its part in levelling up, reducing bills, creating sustainable industry and jobs, and supplying the cheap, clean renewable energy that we need so badly. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Teverson Lord Teverson Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Energy and Climate Change)

I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, on bringing forward this amendment, and on her fight for rationality in decarbonisation within the United Kingdom.

When I get up in the morning in Cornwall, I look out of my window—quite often before I go running or whatever—and I can see some 30 wind turbines from my house. One is about just under a kilometre away, and from it I can see which way the wind is blowing and how strong it is. Most of all, what it genuinely portrays to me is a living countryside that is economically sustainable and which is part of the economic mix. That to me, down in the far south-west, is really important. People understand that, just as the noble Baroness has described.

For me, there is an irony in government policy at the moment. Many Members here will recall, as distantly as 10 days ago, the results of round 5 of the contracts for difference for renewable energy. There were two results that were particularly interesting. One of them, which was given a lot of publicity, was that onshore wind had absolutely no take-up—a real disaster for the decarbonisation programme that the Government want to put forward.

The area that was less talked about was the fact that, as part of this contracts for difference round, 1.5 gigawatts of onshore wind was actually agreed and promoted by the Government. However, none of that has come to England; it has all gone to Scotland and Wales. Because of the crazy planning system we have at the moment, England was excluded. I would like to understand from the Minister the rationale for that.

The other important aspect of the contracts for difference round was that the strike price was around 50p per megawatt hour. That is a really low-cost renewable energy that we as a nation whose households have high energy bills really need. That is why these Benches strongly support this proposal—because it would lead to unequivocally moving back to a planning system where there is equal opportunity for onshore wind. It would also mean that the programme for decarbonisation at a low cost for British households could go ahead. We support the amendment.

Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Labour

I want to put on record that I support the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, and indeed the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, on this issue. The Government have to give an explanation. The experts say it is impossible to decarbonise our electricity supply by 2035. Labour has planned to do it by 2030, but if it is impossible to do it by 2035 then it is certainly impossible to do it by 2030. One has only to look at recent papers—for example, the one by Professor Dieter Helm, an expert. It lists completely all the points that we are going to miss.

One of the missing ingredients is of course onshore wind. I have seen these huge onshore wind farms under construction in Shetland. It is true that they took rather longer in terms of planning applications that I thought they would—instead of eight years, I thought they would be pretty quick. The biggest problem will be that they are so big that the grid does not have the wires to get the power to the mainland. That is crazy.

Then there is the matter of alternative jobs. I find the windmills magnificent, whether they are in the Lake District, Cornwall or anywhere else—they are not an eyesore—but where are they made? We are losing out on manufacturing. We are importing far too much because we do not have an energy plan. We have 20 bits of energy, but that is not an energy plan. Without one, we are going to be importing and importing, and we are going to lose the jobs that the green policies should give to our people.

Photo of Baroness Hayman of Ullock Baroness Hayman of Ullock Opposition Whip (Lords), Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), Shadow Spokesperson (Levelling Up, Housing, Communities and Local Government)

My Lords, we strongly support the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, in this amendment. It is important that we continue to discuss where our energy comes from, what kind of energy we want and how it is going to help us meet our net zero and low-carbon targets. Onshore wind has to be an important part of that. She is completely right to draw attention to the problems we have been facing in recent years in getting onshore wind built. The noble Lord, Lord Teverson, talked about the issues of the results of round 5 recently. That puts a sharp focus on some of the issues we have had around wind farm development, whether offshore or onshore.

We have just heard about the fact that many of the wind farms are built in Scotland or Wales. I heard what my noble friend Lord Rooker said but the western link interconnector has been recently built from Hunterston in Scotland, into the Wirral and north Wales, to bring that energy down. Again, with proper planning of energy infrastructure, we can move that energy around from the wind farms to where it is needed as well, but it has to be thought of together in the round. Unfortunately, the national planning policy forum, as it exists, is not doing that. What we are debating is very important and we fully support the noble Baroness’s amendment.

Photo of Earl Howe Earl Howe Deputy Leader of the House of Lords 8:45, 18 September 2023

My Lords, the debates that we have had on this subject are a reminder of the importance of onshore wind in meeting our net-zero and carbon budget ambitions. This amendment asks that we change national planning policy on onshore wind to bring forward more onshore wind installations in England. I am pleased to say that the Government have now done this.

Updated policy, which took effect from 5 September, paves the way for more onshore wind projects to come online. It does so, first, by broadening the ways that suitable sites can be identified and, secondly, by ensuring that local councils look at the views of the whole community rather than a small minority when considering a planning application. I know that the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, is concerned that this does not go far enough but we believe that it is an important and positive change. I fear I really must reject the term “baby steps”. We are committed to increasing the deployment of onshore wind energy and I can assure her that we will keep progress under review, taking into account not only feedback from stakeholders of whatever kind but available data on the schemes themselves, such as those published by the Renewable Energy Planning Database.

The amendment would also remove the requirement for applicants to carry out mandatory pre-application consultation with those communities affected by development. I understand the argument that this requirement does not apply to most other schemes. However, we think that effective engagement is particularly important in this case, given the strength of feeling which onshore wind proposals can generate, and the opportunities which positive engagement can provide for improving understanding and identifying opportunities to address potential impacts on the local area.

I do not like to sound a negative note on an issue like this but, should this amendment pass, it would for a period also create a policy gap for onshore wind. The foundation of the nationally significant infrastructure projects planning process is national policy statements, through which projects are examined against the national need case. Neither the current nor the draft renewable energy national policy statement covers onshore wind, due to it being consented through other routes.

I say again that the Government consider that onshore wind has an important role to play in achieving net-zero targets and we will continue to promote and incentivise deployment across the UK. I am sympathetic to the intentions behind this amendment but I ask the noble Baroness to reflect, before deciding whether to divide the House, that this is an area where we are taking action, as I know she welcomes, and it is important that we give our policy changes the opportunity to work. As local decision-makers are now able to take a more balanced approach to onshore wind applications, and as we will keep progress under review, I hope that I have provided sufficient reassurance for her to feel able to withdraw her amendment.

Photo of Baroness Hayman Baroness Hayman Crossbench

My Lords, I am extremely grateful to the Minister for his very considered view this evening and for the time that he and the noble Baroness, Lady Scott of Bybrook, spent discussing this issue with me. I am afraid that I simply cannot accept his argument that what the Government have done is sufficient for the scale of the need. The scepticism that has greeted the Government’s proposals across the industry is such that I think it is really important that the other place has the chance to think again on this issue; they never really thought in terms of wind on the Energy Bill. It is important that they do soi in relation to this Bill, and I wish to test the opinion of the House.

Ayes 138, Noes 130.

Division number 6 Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill - Report (8th Day) — Amendment 282K

Aye: 136 Members of the House of Lords

No: 128 Members of the House of Lords

Aye: A-Z by last name


No: A-Z by last name


Amendment 282K agreed.

Amendments 282L and 282M not moved.