Rishi Sunak is embroiled in a growing rebellion against his ban on new onshore wind farms as former Conservative Speaker Jake Berry has become the latest senior MP to announce he will join an effort to overturn the policy.
The former minister said he would support former upgrade secretary Simon Clarke, who has tabled an amendment to legislation pending in parliament demanding the lifting of the current moratorium on new developments.
He joins former prime ministers Boris Johnson and Liz Truss, and Cop26 chairman Alok Sharma, in calling for a raid by the prime minister. Upgrade Secretary Michael Gove also believes the de facto ban on wind farms should be scrapped.
More than 30 Tories are now thought to support the Clarke Amendment to the Leveling and Regeneration Bill, which would allow wind farms in rural areas where there is community consent. Labor confirmed they supported the amendment, raising the likelihood that Sunak would suffer a damaging defeat on the issue.
Berry, who was sacked as party chairman by Sunak, told the BBC on Sunday with the Laura Kuenssberg program: ‘Boris Johnson used to call windmills the satanic white windmills of northern England when they were building them all over my riding.
“He changed his mind about them, I changed his mind to a large extent and I’m going to support Simon Clarke and his amendment because I think if you want to know why we should have more renewables, look at just your gas or electric bill.
Since 2014, planning rules have effectively banned new onshore wind farms in England as part of tougher restrictions imposed by David Cameron’s government after pressure from Tory activists.
The push for greater energy independence since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has prompted calls for it to stop. Truss had promised to change the rules but was ousted before she could.
Ed Miliband, the Shadow Climate Secretary, said: “Onshore wind is the cheapest and cleanest energy we have. Banning the Tories has kept bills high and hurt our energy security. Rishi Sunak’s weakness means he has to be dragged to scrap by his backbenches. He should swallow his pride and turn around now.
“Labour will support the Simon Clarke Amendment, but even that swaps the ban for what is still a very restrictive planning regime on onshore wind – risking stalling developments and keeping bills high. Under this government, we are forced to move forward only at the pace of the slowest Conservative backbencher.
Johnson did not seek to overturn the effective moratorium on new onshore wind projects during his tenure as prime minister, but has since changed his mind. Sharma said he supports letting “local communities decide”, arguing that residents benefit from lower energy bills in return for supporting new developments.
“Onshore wind is one of the cheapest forms of renewable energy and will help boost UK energy security. Putin’s illegal and brutal war in Ukraine has reinforced the fact that climate and environmental security is totally linked to energy and national security. Faster deployment of renewables, including onshore wind, is needed to meet the UK’s 100% clean electricity target by 2035,” he said. tweeted.
The dispute over onshore wind farms is the bill’s second major challenge. Last week, No 10 staged a vote on the bill after a rebellion against the planning policy.
An amendment led by former cabinet minister Theresa Villiers and backed by more than 50 Tory MPs seeks to scrap mandatory local housing targets and make them advisory only.
Former Communities Secretary Sajid Javid slammed the rebels, writing in The Sunday Times that he was “appalled” to see they had put their names on “damaging” amendments.
“These amendments would remove mandatory targets and the presumption in favor of development, two crucial tools we need to build more homes where people actually want to live,” he wrote.
“But tearing down the existing planning system and not building anything credible to replace it would be a colossal failure of political leadership.”
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