Rishi Sunak has reversed his position on new onshore wind farms as the government said it will consult on proposals to allow further developments.
The prime minister had pledged to oppose any extra turbines when he was running to be Tory leader in an apparent effort to curry favour with local activists.
Now Sunak is faced with another Conservative backbench rebellion, with Liz Truss and Boris Johnson both signing an amendment in the name of former levelling up secretary Simon Clarke calling for the ban on new onshore wind farms to be lifted.
A tweet setting out his clear opposition to new developments – “scrap plans to relax the ban on onshore wind” – was still on his Twitter feed when the announcement was made on Tuesday.
Calls to end the ban on new onshore wind farms, which has been in place since 2015, have grown amid efforts to secure the UK’s energy independence as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has squeezed supplies.
🚨Massive Rishi Sunak U-turn🚨
Government tonight launches consultation paving the way for new onshore wind projects.
Sunak while running for Tory leader in July 👇👇👇 https://t.co/yk1wW9fwpn
— Kevin Schofield (@KevinASchofield) December 6, 2022
WIND U-TURN: Another change of course from Rishi Sunak, as onshore wind farms will be able to be built for the first time since 2015 in England.
It follows Tory rebellion led by Simon Clarke and Alok Sharma.
Here is what he said in the summer: pic.twitter.com/csYiZAMyvC
— Tamara Cohen (@tamcohen) December 6, 2022
Under the proposals, planning permission would be dependent on demonstrating local support and “appropriately” addressing any impacts identified by the community, the department for levelling up, housing and communities (DLUHC) said.
The government has pledged to ensure “strong environmental protections” remain in place.
Ministers will also seek views on developing partnerships with “supportive” communities, so those who wish to host new developments can see some benefit – such as through lower energy bills.
It is the second climbdown in the face of a mass revolt by Tory MPs so far this week, with the government having already watered down local housebuilding targets to avoid the first major Commons rebellion of Sunak’s premiership.
Shadow levelling up secretary Lisa Nandy accused Sunak and her ministerial counterpart Michael Gove of being “too weak” to stand up to the backbench rebellion, claiming they are “in office but not in power”.
She suggested the move was a “fudge” which leaves in place a “very restrictive system” on onshore wind.
Mike Childs, from Friends of the Earth, said the effective moratorium on new developments “should have been lifted years ago”.
Dan McGrail, from RenewableUK, said lifting the de-facto ban would help generate more cheap power to help hard-pressed billpayers.