Onshore wind energy
SIR – We are writing concerning the importance of maintaining the Government’s policy on onshore wind development (“Supersized wind turbines could be built in England if onshore ban ends”, report December 3).
In 2012, with the support of the then prime minister David Cameron and chancellor George Osborne, working with colleagues across the Parliamentary party, the government – reflecting widespread public concern – developed policy to thwart the threat of industrial wind turbines being peppered across the countryside.
Doing so catalysed the development of our world-leading offshore wind industry. Not only is offshore wind more efficient because of the concentration of large numbers of turbines in a single location, but it has also saved thousands of birds and bats that might otherwise have been killed by land-based turbines. The current policy has protected the integrity of the English landscape; saved communities from loss of local amenities; and avoided additional transmission and distribution costs, which would have increased every energy bill.
To be anchored, onshore turbines require hundreds of cubic metres of concrete, leaving the land they occupy permanently affected. Twenty turbines take up roughly 240 acres as they must be spaced apart. A change of policy would undoubtedly result in high-grade farmland being permanently affected at a time when we are acutely aware of the importance of food security. In addition, the environmental costs of turbine construction and fitting means that the “payback period”, the time before they become environmentally beneficial, is frequently underestimated and invariably unstated by their advocates.
In practice, the majority of people who don’t want wind turbines to destroy their locality would be powerless to stop them. Before the moratorium, notwithstanding planning consent for wind developments being denied by local authorities, planning appeals approved wind developments in spite of local opposition, with the inspectors citing renewable energy targets as being more important than planning considerations. Taken to its logical conclusion, this means that it was – and would be again – virtually impossible to defeat applications through the planning system. Surely, the views of local people and their elected representatives should be the defining determinate in all such matters.
Onshore wind remains unpopular and local opposition is likely to be intense and politically damaging. Widely cited polling (paid for by the Renewable Energy Foundation) is often cited by advocates of a change in policy. However, analysis of this polling reveals that only 29 per cent actively support the building of onshore wind farms near them, and among people who own their property the figure falls to just 21 per cent.
Onshore wind may appear economically desirable at a time when the price of gas – used to determine the “reference price” for subsidy under Contracts for Difference – is high. However, gas shortages are invariably followed by gluts. Consequently, we could well end up paying subsidies over decades to energy companies keen to cash-in on what they know are short-term conditions.
Though there are profits to be made from onshore wind installations which would enrich a few now, the communal cost for generations to come that such industrialisation of the countryside brings is surely too great for Conservatives to bear.
Sir John Hayes MP (Con)
Sir Geoffrey Cox MP (Con)
Sir Edward Leigh MP (Con)
Rt Hon David Jones MP (Con)
Rt Hon Sir Gregory Knight MP (Con)
Rt Hon David Davis MP (Con)
Sir Christopher Chope OBE MPed (Con)
Sir William Cash MP (Con)
Adam Holloway MP (Con)
Andrew Lewer MP (Con)
Andrew Percy MP (Con)
Bob Blackman MP (Con)
Caroline Johnson MP (Con)
Craig MacKinlay MP (Con)
Dr Daniel Poulter MP (Con)
Greg Smith MP (Con)
Ian Liddell-Grainger MP (Con)
James Gray MP (Con)
James Grundy MP (Con)
John Stevenson MP (Con)
Julian Lewis MP (Con)
Richard Drax MP (Con)
Sammy Wilson MP (DUP)
Baroness Nicholson (Con)
Lord Horam (Con)
London SW1

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