In the last few years, south Lincolnshire has seen a lot of wind turbines go up. The last government ducked all difficult decisions about Britain’s energy supplies and left us dangerously reliant on unreliable sources of oil and gas in Russia and the Far East.
They failed to plan for the replacement of our ageing nuclear power stations. They failed to work out what was going to replace North Sea oil as reserves dried up and coal-fired power stations closed down.
As hard-headed Conservatives, we were determined not to make the same mistakes and to deliver a comprehensive strategy that would give Britain steady and secure energy supplies for the decades to come. That’s why we encouraged the investment in renewable energy sources like solar and wind and committed to the construction of new nuclear plants.
But two-and-a-half years later, it is time to strike a different balance. Lincolnshire has already accepted a large number of wind turbines - and is leading the way in the development of offshore wind. It is perfectly reasonable and right for Lincolnshire County Council and our district councils to draw up policies that will guide future decisions about the siting of wind turbines so that we protect our precious landscape and listen to local people’s concerns. Such policies might include minimum separation distances between centres of population and new turbines. They might also set out ways in which communities should benefit from a share in the revenues from a wind turbine or get cheaper electricity supplies as a result.
As planning minister, I am not going to make policies about wind turbines for the whole country because policies that work in a fenland landscape may be nonsensical in the dramatic contours of Cumbria. But I am determined to back local leaders like Martin Hill and his colleagues on LCC who want to represent local opinion and defend our precious environment.
Onshore wind has an important role to play in our future energy supplies but turbines are not appropriate in all settings and there is a limit to how many any community or county should be asked to accept.