Officials are in discussion with MPs about onshore wind farms amid a growing Conservative rebellion to lift the ban, a minister has confirmed.
Schools minister Nick Gibb told Sky News that while “the emphasis is still on offshore wind”, ministers “continue to talk to members of Parliament” about their views on whether or not new onshore wind projects should be allowed.
Mr Gibb denied the softening of the government’s position was a U-turn, instead referring to it as “parliamentary democracy”.
“This is the normal process of getting legislation through Parliament. You listen to members of Parliament, you talk to members of Parliament as you take measures through,” he said.
“The emphasis is still on offshore wind as a source of creating hundreds of thousands of jobs.”
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During the summer leadership contest, Rishi Sunak pledged not to build any new wind farms and argued a massive expansion in offshore wind would be more effective.
The Telegraph has reported that the PM is set to back down on onshore wind farms, after 35 Tories – including former prime ministers Boris Johnson and Liz Truss – demanded the ban be lifted.
The group of rebels have signed an amendment tabled to the leveling up bill by former housing secretary Simon Clarke which would allow new onshore wind projects in England.
Labor is also expected to return the amendment.
But the newspaper also reports that two dozen Conservative MPs have written to the PM urging him to stand firm on the onshore wind ban or risk Britain’s food security.
“A change of policy would undoubtedly result in high grade farm land being permanently affected at a time when we are acutely aware of the importance of food security,” their letter reads.”
The group of signatories include senior backbencher Sir John Hayes and former cabinet ministers David Davis and David Jones, according to the original report.
Asked about the government’s position on Monday, Housing Secretary Michael Gove said: “We’re going to have a conversation with people who are passionate about our environment and making sure we have the right wind power in the right places.
“I know that those conversations are going on at the moment.
“All of us are clear that wind power renewables is an important part of our drive toward net zero. But we also need to take account of community consent.
“Balancing democracy with the need for development, that’s always the best way.”
Last week, Business Secretary Grant Shapps said there would be more onshore wind projects “Where communities are in favor of it”, which would mean the end of an effective block on such projects since 2016 when David Cameron excluded them from government green energy subsidies.
Speaking to Sky News, Mr Shapps denied the government was backing down over fears it would lose a vote on the Clarke amendment.