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Ecotricity will revisit 'super farm' plans to power Gloucestershire if turbine ban is lifted

A wind farm large enough to power all of Gloucestershire could be built by Ecotricity if the Government lifts the de facto ban on turbines.

The Stroud-based company said a feasibility study for wind power in the Cotswolds AONB is among a  "back catalogue" of plans it will revisit if Rishi Sunak lifts the moratorium on new onshore wind projects in the UK.

The Prime Minister is under pressure to find a compromise on the ban, after Simon Clarke, the former levelling up minister, introduced an amendment to ease onshore wind development.

Yesterday the government announced it would consult on proposed changes to national planning policy on onshore wind development to explore how local communities can show support.

Due to launch before Christmas, the consultation will be inviting views from local authorities, communities and businesses.

Since the strict planning restrictions were introduced in 2015, no major onshore wind projects have been developed in England.

A relaxation of the rules would allow communities to authorise energy developments without unanimous support, meaning hundreds of new onshore wind turbines could be built across England.

It would help the Government reach its goal to decarbonise the electricity sector by 2035.

Dale Vince, CEO of Ecotricity, welcomed the announcement and said the consultation was "urgent and overdue" as on-shore wind farms have struggled for years with a more difficult planning regime than almost any other infrastructure or generating project.

He added: "I don't really care it's a u-turn, we are used that with this Government. If that gets sorted now, we won't just be returning to the position before Cameron banned it - we'll be where we should and need to be - a level playing field.

"Taking the breaks off this type of renewable energy will kick start a sector of British industry which is ready to build turbines, efficiently without the need of Government subsidies. I have 25 years' experience in this field and I know the benefits for the country intrinsically.

"I feel very confident that the Government and indeed local authorities will be surprised by the support these wind farms have. The UK public need and indeed want this type of sustainable power to produce their energy and hopefully reduce their energy bills."

Ecotricty's feasibility study reveals the entire county could be powered by 66 turbines if they are allowed to reach a height of 175m, or 118 turbines if they were limited to 125m.

There are no specific restrictions in current planning rules on the height of turbines.

In Scotland, the biggest turbine is 200m, twice the height of the tower housing Big Ben and in England the biggest is 126.5m at a site in Essex.

Mr Vince said tech developments meant that England could have fewer, bigger windmills, compared to the early years of onshore wind development. But he said England was not well suited to the biggest turbines, which he argued are not needed to provide sufficient energy from onshore wind.

Supporters believe onshore wind is the cheapest and quickest way to secure new sources of electricity for the UK amid the squeeze prompted by the war in Ukraine while objectors say it will lead to the "industrialisation" of the countryside.

Research from the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit published this week found that the number of windfarms it said would be required to provide electricity for all 29 million homes in the UK would take up less than a fifth of land currently occupied by landfill sites.

Under the 2015 rules onshore wind farms can only be built in areas that have been designated by local authorities, a task only 11 percent of councils have undertaken.

Planning authorities must also have "fully addressed" any impacts identified by the local community, which experts say effectively gives veto power to anyone who objects.

Under the proposals to lift the current ban, planning permission would be dependent on a project being able to demonstrate local support and satisfactorily address any impacts identified by the local community.

Local authorities would also have to demonstrate their support for certain areas as being suitable for onshore wind, moving away from rigid requirements for sites to be designated in local plans.

A survey earlier this year by YouGov found that more than 70 percent of respondents support wind farms in their local area, compared to 17 percent who are opposed.

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