Protecting the beauty and local amenity of our countryside is something I consider with the utmost importance. At the same time, I fully appreciate the need to boost our national capacity for renewable energy.
That is why I welcome the Government's plans to introduce changes to the planning system whereby planning permission for onshore wind would depend upon a project commanding local support and being able to satisfactorily address any impacts identified by the local community. A consultation will shortly be launched on how local authorities can demonstrate local support and respond to the views of their communities when considering onshore wind development in England.
Views will also be sought on developing local partnerships for supportive communities to enable those who would like to host new onshore wind to benefit, for example through lower energy bills. I understand that the Government will also consider how the planning system can support communities to have their voices heard on the necessary infrastructure to connect wind farms to the grid and upgrade existing onshore wind infrastructure.
I appreciate that there are a range of views on onshore wind. I firmly believe that local authorities - who know their areas best - are best placed to make decisions on onshore wind sites. The Government has been clear that strong environmental protections will remain in place, with valued landscapes such as National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the Green Belt protected.
Onshore wind is one of the most cost-effective electricity generating technologies and already accounts for approximately a quarter of installed renewable capacity in the UK. I look forward to further details on the Government's consultation soon.