Government ditches onshore wind ban in move hailed by industry and campaigners

The de facto ban on onshore wind has been scrapped as part of a range of planning reforms unveiled by Chancellor Rachel Reeves to boost growth.

Green campaigners and the energy sector have welcomed the move, which reverses measures brought in for England by the Conservatives in 2015 under David Cameron.

Onshore wind was treated differently from other developments under the rules, which stopped schemes going ahead if there were any objections.

The energy industry says onshore wind is one of the cheapest forms of new power, can be built quickly and reduces dependence on expensive gas, contributing to efforts to cut climate emissions.

Labour previously said it would overturn the ban within weeks if it came to power after the election, as it seeks to double onshore wind as part of its plans to transform the grid to clean energy by 2030.

The new Government issued a policy statement on Monday which brought an immediate end to the ban – delivering on its pledge in just a few days.

Energy UK’s chief executive Emma Pinchbeck, said: “It’s excellent to see the new Government prioritise planning reforms as a key enabler for economic growth and enhancing our energy security.

“Unblocking the planning system, removing the de-facto ban to double onshore wind and ensuring adequate resourcing for planning authorities are crucial steps the industry has long been calling for,” she said.

But she warned that the de facto ban had significantly reduced the pipeline for onshore wind in England and it would take time for that to recover.

Industry body RenewableUK’s chief executive Dan McGrail said: “Lifting the onshore wind ban in England was long overdue and we’re delighted that Labour has made this one of its first priorities in office.

“This shows that the new Government is determined to act fast to tackle some of the longstanding barriers which have held the UK back on developing vital new clean energy infrastructure.”

He said public support for onshore wind was “sky-high”, with 78% in favour of the technology in official polling.

And he said modern turbines were more efficient and powerful than wind farms built in previous decades, so doubling onshore wind would not mean twice as many across the British countryside.

He added: “The onshore wind industry is committed to ensuring that communities are properly consulted about any proposals, including the wide range of economic benefits they will bring to local people.

“This process can take several years, including measures which help ensure that wildlife is protected, so it will be some time before brand new projects go ahead in England.”

Alethea Warrington, senior campaigner at climate charity Possible, described the announcement as a “really positive step forward for our climate, our economy, and our energy bills”.

“This is a sensible, practical move which reflects the UK public’s strong support for onshore wind, which goes across political parties and every constituency.”

She added: “The new government should also move as quickly as possible to deliver the further action needed to cut both energy bills and emissions, including insulating homes and ensuring greater roll-out of wind and solar energy across the UK, including community energy.”

Energy Secretary Ed Miliband said: “This government was elected with a mandate to take immediate action to boost Britain’s energy independence.

Energy Secretary Ed Miliband leaving No 10 Downing Street
Energy Secretary Ed Miliband leaving No 10 Downing Street after Sir Keir Starmer’s first Cabinet meeting (Tejas Sandhu/PA)

“The onshore wind ban is a symbol of how bad decisions in the last 14 years have put up energy bills for families. Today it ends.”

The move to lift the ban comes as Mr Miliband wrote to his new department, telling them they would be at the heart of the new government’s agenda to make Britain a “clean energy superpower”.

He spelled out a link between high energy bills and a reliance on fossil fuels, which cause greenhouse gases driving rising global temperatures and the climate crisis.

“Families and businesses across the country are still struggling with energy bills that are too high and are expected to rise again in the autumn.

“In an unstable world, the only way to guarantee our energy security and cut bills permanently is to speed up the transition away from fossil fuels and towards homegrown clean energy,” he told the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero (DESNZ).