Politics

Shapps against ‘vast increase’ in ‘eyesore’ onshore wind farms ahead of energy strategy reveal

Grant Shapps has pushed back against reported proposals to increase the number of onshore windfarms as the government prepares to unveil its energy security strategy next week.

The transport secretary told Sky News’ Ridge on Sunday programme that onshore windfarms are “eyesores” and damage the environment, adding that he personally does not favour “a vast increase” in the number of them.

It had been reported that Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng wanted to double onshore wind power by 2030, and treble it by 2035.

On Sunday, Downing Street said any decisions on onshore wind “will always be subject to consent from local authorities”.

Looking ahead to the government’s energy strategy reveal next week Mr Shapps told Sky News the government “will be looking for a greater mix to produce our energy”, adding: “You might expect to see more nuclear reactors, nuclear power.”

Asked if planning laws should be relaxed to allow for more onshore windfarms, the transport secretary said: “I don’t favour a vast increase in onshore wind farms, for pretty obvious reasons – they sit on the hills there and can create something of an eyesore for communities as well as actual problems of noise as well.

“So I think for reasons of environmental protection, the way to go with this is largely, not entirely, but largely off-sea.”

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Pressed on whether that means the idea of a big increase in the number of onshore wind farms is effectively off the table for now, he added: “I’d urge you to wait for the energy strategy later in the week.

“But my thinking is what you really want to do is develop in other ways – nuclear, we will have offshore wind. I don’t think you want a huge expansion of onshore wind.

“There may be cases where it makes sense, but I think by and large we’ve established… that offshore works very well. And by the way, it’s providing quite a lot of our electricity already.”

It comes as the The Sunday Telegraph newspaper reported that Boris Johnson is preparing to announce plans to expand the government’s commitment to move forward with new nuclear power stations this decade.

A Number 10 spokesperson said: “Next week we will set out an ambitious plan to supercharge our use of a diverse range of renewables including offshore wind, solar and hydrogen – all underpinned by nuclear and continued support for our North Sea oil and gas sector.”

Shadow business secretary Jonathan Reynolds told Sky News’ Ridge on Sunday programme that the Labour party supports more investment in nuclear energy to help ease the rising cost of household bills.

He said: “We do support more nuclear in the system alongside that development of renewables.

“I think the danger is that, frankly the individual commissioning decisions on nuclear reactors all depend on the price you can achieve – they can be very expensive if you haven’t been able to get the right deal and the right private sector partners to do that.”

Meanwhile, following Mr Shapps earlier remarks, Conservative MP Alicia Kearns described herself as “probably one of the only people in the country who think onshore wind can be quite beautiful in its own way”.

Speaking to Sky News, Ms Kearns stressed the need for the UK to “clean up” its energy supply chains, adding: “I will not have bloodstained panels essentially pollute our environment.”

Earlier this week, MPs urged the government to take action to reduce energy bills for pensioners and other vulnerable groups.

Theresa Villiers, a former Tory cabinet minister, and several other MPs put forward ideas for further action during business, energy and industrial strategy questions on Tuesday.

Ms Villiers told the House of Commons: “The price cap, the cut in fuel duty and warm homes discount are providing vital help with bills, but will the government commit to further action domestically and internationally to try to get energy prices down to help pensioners and other vulnerable groups?”

Business secretary Mr Kwarteng replied: “[She] is absolutely right to identify this as an issue and that’s why we’re working not only within this government, but across G7 partners to make sure that we get energy supply, diverse sources of supply which can keep prices down.”

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