Leading environmentalists and prominent green energy entrepreneurs are confronting ministers Michael Gove and Grant Shapps, pressing them to deliver on freeing up onshore wind development.
Ecotricity founder Dale Vince, naturalist Chris Packham and green entrepreneur Deborah Meaden are among over 100 signatories to a letter yesterday to the planning and energy secretaries, asking them to honour last year’s Conservative pledge to free up rural turbines.
Seven years into David Cameron’s de facto ban since 2015 on new turbines in the Tories’ English heartlands, last year the Johnson government reversed the policy, permitting exploitation of onshore wind, long recognised as among the world’s quickest, and cheapest sources of clean electricity.
But that reversal has been supported to date by no effective follow-up instructions to planners explicitly liberalising land-based wind, the protestors note.
They include business people Mary Portas, Riverford founder Guy Singh-Watson, wind trade body RenewableUK, and activist groups Community Energy England and Power for People.
The result, say the signatories, has been proposed farms, proven to be popular with local communities, continuing to languish unbuilt, stifled by poor changes proposed to planning rules.
“While our energy bills have sky-rocketed and we continue to import foreign gas, it is extraordinary that the government isn’t doing everything possible to maximise the potential of onshore wind”, the letter says.
The Mission Net Zero Report published in January by former energy minister Chris Skidmore and the independent Climate Change Committee both agree rapid deployment of land-based turbines is essential, it stresses, if the government’s Net Zero pledge is to be fulfilled.
The activists say the government needs to go further with proposed changes to the National Planning Policy Framework. Its amendments currently out to consultation are entirely inadequate to bring about the required change in policy, they object.
“Marginally revised” wording intended to replace the NPPF’s turbine-stifling footnote 54 “looks to be almost identical in effect, and inevitably means the effective ban will remain in place”, says the letter.
“At the very least, onshore wind planning applications should be assessed on a level playing field with all other infrastructure projects. We are therefore calling for the removal of footnotes 62 and 63 from the National Planning Policy Framework”.
The protest has been organised by Possible, the climate campaign group headed by Leo Murray.
It comes after steps taken by offshore wind developers Vattenfall to analyse turbines’ impact on bird populations and behaviour.
Vattenfall published results of tests and videos taken during a 3 million Euro study conducted at its European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre, off Aberdeen.
Birds in flight activated tracking cameras which provided 3-D paths describing different breeds’ reactions to offshore structures.
Analysing 10,000 videos, the researchers found no collisions with blades, nor even narrow escapes.