UK government to ease ban on onshore wind farms to head off revolt

A general view of a wind turbine at Westmill Wind Farm & Solar Park, which is owned by the community and supports local renewable energy, at Watchfield, near Swindon, Britain, September 24, 2021. REUTERS/Andrew Boyers

LONDON, Dec 6 (Reuters) - British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's government on Tuesday said it would ease restrictions on building onshore wind farms, heading off a revolt by his party's lawmakers who had demanded they should be permitted with local support.

Sunak had opposed relaxing the ban on onshore farms in his campaign to become British leader just a few months ago and has said he wanted to focus on offshore wind.

But some in his Conservative Party have been demanding onshore turbines should be allowed where there was local consent, and said they would seek to make changes to a proposed legislation going through parliament.

The government in a statement said it would begin a consultation to see how local authorities could show local support could be demonstrated.

"Under the proposals, planning permission would be dependent on a project being able to demonstrate local support and appropriately address any impacts identified by the local community," the statement said.

"Local authorities would also have to demonstrate their support for certain areas as being suitable for onshore wind, moving away from rigid requirements for sites to be designated in local plans."

The government said the consultation, which would also seek views on whether local communities who backed new projects should get lower energy bills, would start by Christmas and conclude by the end of April next year.

It said certain areas, such as National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, would still be protected.

"Really pleased to see a sensible agreement reached this evening which will enable onshore wind to be delivered while enshrining the vital principle of community consent," Conservative lawmaker Simon Clarke, who had been leading the calls for change, said on Twitter.

British media said it was the second U-turn in two days by Sunak, who has been in power for just over a month, coming after the government scrapped plans to impose mandatory housebuilding targets on local councils after dozens of Conservative lawmakers threatened a rebellion.

Reporting by Michael Holden; Editing by Mark Porter and Grant McCool

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