Vicky Ford MP: There are a number of easy wins that could even cut our energy bills while ensuring we continue to play our part in tackling climate change. Onshore wind technology has improved significantly. It is now a cheap source of new electricity generation which does not need taxpayer subsidies to be competitive. It is supported by a majority of Conservative voters, while nationally it enjoys huge popularity – with only 2 per cent strongly opposed to new turbines. Wind energy delivered up to 36 per cent of UK electricity during the recent ‘Beast from the East’ cold snap. Businesses are keen to invest in this sector yet find their route to market blocked by the planning process. We should certainly be enabling the upgrade of the oldest turbines in the country so these sites can be re-powered with the latest cutting-edge technology. A recent report found that this simple act could provide enough electricity to power an additional 800,000 homes every year. New wind turbines should only ever be built where there is local consent, but requiring local support should not mean a blanket ban. Since the planning rules have been rewritten to reflect a legitimate desire for more local control, there has been a 94 per cent reduction in the number of applications for onshore wind projects in England. When surveyed in 2016, more than 50 per cent of local planning policy teams said they felt either unsure or not confident about how the rules should be understood. Communities are not empowered by opaque planning rules, instead they are robbed of real choice. Local people should have the final say, and that means the ability to reject wind farms, but also they must have the power to accept this source of cheap, clean energy into their community if they wish.
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