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Onshore wind ban lifted in England

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The onshore wind ban in England is being lifted, following Labour’s landslide election victory, according to a speech made today by new Chancellor Rachel Reeves.

The installation of new onshore wind turbines has been effectively banned in England since  2015, when the Conservative government added restrictive footnotes to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), resulting in new schemes having to receive unanimous backing by local communities, with one objection derailing entire projects. Despite this, onshore wind provided roughly a third of the UK’s power in 2023. It has proven to be one of the cheapest forms of energy available, constantly backed by the majority in public surveys.

In today’s announcement Ms Reeves confirmed the lifting of the “absurd ban” via the immediate removal of these footnotes, putting onshore wind projects on an even footing with all other forms of infrastructure. The change will officially come into force when parliament resumes on 18th July.

The Chancellor also pledged wider changes to support renewable energy development, including a consultation on bringing large onshore proposals into the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project regime, to help expedite decisions, followed by a revised National Policy Statement. An update to the Community Benefits Protocol for Onshore Wind is also due to be published soon.

The announcement and the long-awaited changes, part of the Labour Party manifesto, have been well received by the sector. RenewableUK‘s Chief Executive Dan McGrail, explained why:

“Lifting the onshore wind ban in England was long overdue and we’re delighted that Labour has made this one of its first priorities in office. This shows that the new Government is determined to act fast to tackle some of the longstanding barriers which have held the UK back on developing vital new clean energy infrastructure.

“Public support for onshore wind remains sky-high throughout the UK at 78% according to the latest official polling, as billpayers know that new wind farms provide electricity at very low cost, as well as strengthening our energy security and tackling climate change. Polling also shows that most people want to see the planning system reformed, as they’re frustrated that an onshore wind farm proposal which is overwhelmingly popular in a local area can be stopped by just a handful of opponents.

“The onshore wind industry is committed to ensuring that communities are properly consulted about any proposals, including the wide range of economic benefits they will bring to local people. This process can take several years, including measures which help ensure that wildlife is protected, so it will be some time before brand new projects go ahead in England.

“Modern turbines are substantially more efficient and powerful than the turbines built in previous decades, so doubling the UK’s onshore wind capacity by 2030 won’t mean doubling the number of turbines in the UK. We can generate more power from fewer new turbines, and we can replace older turbines with far more powerful ones, making the most of our superb natural wind resources. Our research shows that delivering 30 gigawatts of onshore wind by the end of the decade would boost the economy by £45 billion and create 27,000 jobs”.

The speed at which action has been taken to lift has also been well received, with Zoisa North-Bond, CEO of Octopus Energy Generation, commenting:

“It’s fantastic to see Labour taking immediate action to unleash cheap, clean and secure power for Britain.

“Streamlining planning reform and fast-tracking shovel-ready renewables are key to boosting UK-wide investments in homegrown green power. We’ve had over 30,000 requests from local communities for our ‘Fan Club’ scheme – and with these reforms, we’ll be able to build onshore wind turbines quickly where people want them.

“As a next step, the Government should enable zonal pricing for energy. This would slash bills immediately across the country and unlock investment in new renewables where demand is high.”

In addition to providing a boost to both the nation’s economy and Net Zero ambitions, the move will also help support a reinvigorated raft of opportunities for farmers and landowners looking to generate wind power and/or work with developers to achieve the same.

The government’s full policy statement on onshore wind can be read here.

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