Ministers will announce a ban on onshore wind farms in the coming days, including potential ‘tweaks’ to the Leveling Bill, in the face of growing rebellion from Tory MPs.
Culture Secretary Michelle Donelan has given the strongest hint yet that the government is preparing to lift the de facto ban on onshore wind after the number of public rebels rose to 34 on Monday night .
The government all but confirmed on Monday that restrictions on onshore wind would be changed in the face of the revolt, led by former leveling secretary Simon Clarke and endorsed by Boris Johnson and Liz Truss, as well as former chief whip Wendy Morton .
Donelan said the changes had to be announced by Michael Gove before the bill returned to parliament. “The government is listening to colleagues around this amendment and I’m sure the upgrade secretary will be making announcements in the coming days,” she told GB News.
“MPs from across the House table amendments, including senior MPs, and then there are discussions between ministers and those MPs.
“And sometimes there are adjustments made to bills, sometimes people withdraw their amendment because they haven’t understood the other pieces of legislation. This is all part of the legislative process.
The Guardian understands that 34 MPs signed the amendment, which would evaporate Sunak’s majority as Labor will back Clarke’s amendment, putting Sunak at risk of a Commons defeat.
Labor is also tabling a tough onshore wind amendment, highlighting the limits of the Tory rebels’ amendment. This would remove onerous planning restrictions that effectively ban new onshore wind in England, but would also require local authorities to proactively identify opportunities for renewables, including onshore wind generation.
On Monday, Business and Energy Secretary Grant Shapps said there would be more onshore wind projects “where communities support them”, which would mean the end of a de facto blockage on such projects. since 2014 under planning rules.
Shapps erroneously stated that Sunak had “always” maintained that the onshore wind could occur with local consent, adding: “Presenting it as some sort of massive gulf is completely wrong.”
The U-turn on support for onshore wind projects would directly contradict a pledge Sunak made during his leadership campaign, but Downing Street has sought to make it government policy.