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Ex-climate chief Alok Sharma joins Boris Johnson and Liz Truss in rebellion to overturn ban on new windfarms

The i 26/11/2022 Joe-duggan
Alok Sharma, President of COP26, has joined senior Tories rebelling against a Government ban on new onshore wind farms (Photo: Brendan Smialowski / AFP via Getty) © Provided by The i Alok Sharma, President of COP26, has joined senior Tories rebelling against a Government ban on new onshore wind farms (Photo: Brendan Smialowski / AFP via Getty)

Former Cop president Alok Sharma has joined a growing rebellion by senior Tories over onshore wind, backing an amendment calling for a ban on new windfarms to be lifted.

Mr Sharma, the former Cabinet minister who headed up the Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow, has added to the growing list of 22 Conservative MPs supporting an amendment to the Levelling Up Bill seeking to overturn the Government’s policy.

Ex-Prime Ministers Boris Johnson and Liz Truss are both among the rebels on the issue, despite defending the ban when they were in office.

A de facto moratorium was imposed on new onshore wind farms in 2015 by David Cameron’s Government, under pressure from Conservative MPs and councils who claimed they were ‘unsightly’.

Some were allowed to proceed following a rules change in 2020, but planning rules continue to hamper new projects.

Ex-Levelling Up Secretary Simon Clarke’s amendment would oblige the government to change planning rules within six months to allow new projects.

The wind farm push comes days after Tory backbenchers forced Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to U-turn on house-building targets, after nearly 50 Conservative MPs threatened to rebel.

Proponents say wind energy has a crucial role to play in securing the UK’s energy independence and ending a reliance on fossil fuels.

At present, onshore and offshore wind turbines together supply around 30 per cent of the UK’s energy. The National Grid hopes to quadruple wind capacity by 2030 – but the ban on new onshore wind farms has proved a stumbling block for projects.

Mr Sharma said he supports letting “local communities decide” and backs residents being given reduced energy bills in exchange for their support of new developments.

“Onshore wind is one of the cheapest forms of renewable power and will help to bolster the UK’s energy security,” he tweeted.

“Putin’s illegal and brutal war in Ukraine has reinforced that climate & environmental security are totally interlinked with energy and national security

“Faster deployment of renewables, inc onshore wind is needed to deliver on the UK’s 2035, 100 per cent clean electricity target.”

Mr Johnson did not try to overturn the effective moratorium on new onshore wind projects, which has been in place since 2015, during his time as Prime Minister, while Ms Truss criticised wind and solar farms during her leadership campaign.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer backs lifting the ban, arguing that Mr Sunak’s refusal to do so as a “national act of self-harm, choking off our economic potential”.

Earlier this week, in a second challenge to the bill, Mr Sunak was forced to pull a vote on the legislation that would set a target of building 300,000 homes per year when around 50 Tory MPs threatened to rebel.

Theresa Villiers, the former Northern Ireland Secretary leading the rebellion on planning, claimed the plans would encourage “development which damages the environment and quality of life”.

Ms Villiers said: “This is a significant victory for the backbenches. It shows that ministers know that they need to listen to us and they need more time to come up with a solution.”

Opposition figures said that Mr Sunak was now “terrified” of his own backbenchers.

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