Rachel Reeves scraps ‘absurd’ Tory onshore windfarm ban

Rachel Reeves has ditched the Conservatives’ “absurd” onshore windfarm ban in a bid to reboot the economy, claiming the new Labour government’s economic inheritance was the worst since the Second World War.

The chancellor has ordered civil servants to compile a dossier on the state of the economy after 14 years of Tory rule.

In a speech at the Treasury, she said she had repeatedly warned about the dire state of the public finances during the general election and “what I have seen in the past 72 hours has only confirmed that”.

“Our economy has been held back by decisions deferred and decisions delayed … political self-interest put ahead of the national interest,” she said.

Ms Reeves also pointed out:

  • Public sector workers faced “difficult choices” on pay

  • She is prepared for “short-term political pain” to fix Britain’s finances

  • Housebuilding targets will involve building on some “green belt” and its boundaries will be reviewed

  • Councils will be given newly restored mandatory targets in the drive to build 1.5 million homes

  • Labour will not use its large majority to renege on tax promises.

  • New Treasury analysis shows the economy would be £140bn bigger had it grown at the OECD average since 2010

She also said Labour would look at whether to class onshore wind as a nationally significant infrastructure – a move that would allow large farms to get planning approval more quickly.

Only a small number of onshore wind farms have been built since David Cameron’s government introduced restrictions in 2015 (PA Archive)
Only a small number of onshore wind farms have been built since David Cameron’s government introduced restrictions in 2015 (PA Archive)

“Be in no doubt – we are going to get Britain building again. We are going to get Britain’s economy growing again,” the chancellor vowed, adding: “As of today, we are ending the absurd ban on new onshore wind in England.”

She added: “We must acknowledge that trade-offs always exist. Any development may have environmental consequences, place pressure on services and rouse voices of local opposition, but we will not succumb to a status quo which responds to the existence of trade-offs by always saying no.”

The move was welcomed by the energy sector and environmental campaigners.

Under the previous rules, onshore wind was treated differently from other developments – effectively stopping schemes going ahead if there were any objections.

Labour had said it would overturn the ban within weeks if it came to power.

Chancellor Rachel Reeves made the announcement during a speech at the Treasury in London, to an audience of leading business figures (Jonathan Brady/PA Wire)
Chancellor Rachel Reeves made the announcement during a speech at the Treasury in London, to an audience of leading business figures (Jonathan Brady/PA Wire)

The party wants to double onshore wind as part of its plans to transition to more clean energy by 2030.

One of the cheapest forms of new power, it can cut dependence on expensive gas and help slash climate emissions, according to experts.

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 previous ban had significantly reduced the pipeline for new developments.

Industry body RenewableUK’s chief executive Dan McGrail said that lifting the ban 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 per cent in favour of the technology in official polling.

Modern turbines were more efficient and powerful than older wind farms, he added.

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.”

Mike Childs, head of science, policy and research at Friends of the Earth, said that although much of the designated green belt bordering towns and cities “isn’t exactly a haven for wildlife”, it does serve a vital purpose in preventing urban sprawl and that building on it should be a “last resort”.