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Labour lifts Tories’ ‘absurd’ ban on onshore windfarms

The de facto ban on new onshore windfarms has been dropped by the Labour government, to the delight of environmentalists and energy experts.

The ban was caused by two footnotes to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), the rules that govern the building of homes and infrastructure.

These footnotes applied only to onshore wind, and no other type of infrastructure, and required such strong proof that there was no opposition locally that they made building turbines impossible, given there is nearly always some local resistance to any building proposal.

In Labour’s new draft NPPF, these footnotes have been deleted in their entirety, meaning onshore wind projects are now on an even footing with all other forms of infrastructure. The change, which comes into force immediately, will be confirmed to parliament on 18 July after the Commons resumes sitting.

Labour also announced on Monday that it would go a step further and consult on whether to designate large windfarms as nationally significant infrastructure projects, meaning that the energy secretary, Ed Miliband, would sign them off and local councils would not have a say.

The chancellor, Rachel Reeves, announced in a speech on Monday that she would end the “absurd” restriction on new windfarms and said decisions should be taken nationally, not locally.

In a policy statement, officials wrote: “Delivering our clean power mission will help boost Britain’s energy independence, save money on energy bills, support high-skilled jobs and tackle the climate crisis.

“We are therefore committed to doubling onshore wind energy by 2030. That means immediately removing the de facto ban on onshore wind in England in place since 2015. We are revising planning policy to place onshore wind on the same footing as other energy development in the National Planning Policy Framework.”

Last September Michael Gove, the then communities secretary, said the ban would be lifted. Rules put in place by David Cameron in 2015 had decreed that a single planning objection could scupper an onshore wind project. However, the offending paragraphs in the NPPF footnote remained, making building new projects almost impossible. Analysis of the government’s renewable energy planning database found that no applications for new onshore wind projects were submitted after Gove’s announcement.

The end of the ban was promised in Labour’s election manifesto and trailed by Miliband when he was shadow energy secretary, but campaigners were surprised by the speed at which it has been implemented.

Mike Childs, the head of science, policy and research at Friends of the Earth, said: “By ending the onshore wind ban in England, Labour is making an important stride towards delivering on our climate goals while also paving the way for lower bills, as renewables produce some of the cheapest and cleanest energy available.

“In April, research by Friends of the Earth found that utilising less than 3% of land in England for onshore wind and solar could produce 13 times more clean energy that now generated – enough to power all households in England twice over. By harnessing the country’s vast renewable power potential, the new government is staking its claim as a global leader in the green energy transition.”

Sam Richards, the chief executive of the pro-growth campaign group Britain Remade and a former environmental adviser to No 10, said: “The only way we are going to see the growth Britain desperately needs is if we make it significantly easier to build the homes and the new sources of clean energy needed to reach net zero.

“During the election Labour promised to fix our outdated and sclerotic planning system to just that, and with this speech the new chancellor is hitting the ground running. Lifting the ban on new onshore windfarms in England is something Britain Remade has been campaigning for since we launched, so I am delighted Rachel Reeves has dropped the ban so soon after the election.”

Dr Doug Parr, Greenpeace’s chief scientist, said: “As the recent gas price crisis shows, this ban was self-defeating for energy security, costly, and lost opportunities to cut emissions. The end of the ban is well overdue.”