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30 Jun 2009 : Column 67WH—continued

30 Jun 2009 : Column 68WH

Mr. Bone: I am not sure whether the Minister follows my hon. Friend’s argument. The wind farm that crosses our constituencies creates more power than the requirement for the whole of Northamptonshire. The rest of the east midlands may well not be doing its fair share, but Northamptonshire is doing more than its fair share. That is the point we are trying to make.

Mr. Malik: I think that Northamptonshire should be applauded for the amount that it does. It stands to reason that we cannot expect each part of each locality to contribute the same amount to this fight. As the hon. Member for Kettering said, some areas are better suited to this kind of technology. Some people will always feel that they are doing more than their fair share. That is why I am looking at the matter from a regional perspective.

The spatial strategy for Northamptonshire is delivered by two joint planning units. There is one for north Northamptonshire, which covers Kettering, Wellingborough, east Northamptonshire and Corby, and one for west Northamptonshire, which covers Northampton, Daventry and south Northamptonshire. I turn first to north Northamptonshire. The core spatial strategy was adopted in June 2008. It was the first in England to be adopted, which was an excellent achievement. The plan covers the period up to 2021 and sets out the vision and objectives for existing and new communities. It tackles environmental concerns, particularly to do with climate change, and identifies the potential to promote environmental technologies. Policy 14 states that developments should meet the highest viable standards of resource, energy efficiency and reductions in carbon emissions. The core spatial strategy for west Northamptonshire is currently being developed and it is anticipated that publication for consultation will be in November 2009.

All the policies I have described provide the context against which all proposals for wind farms should be assessed. Local planning authorities should take into account the individual and cumulative effect of wind generation developments and make an assessment at the planning application stage. However, local planning authorities should not set arbitrary limits in local development documents on the numbers of turbines that will be acceptable in particular locations. It is a fundamental principle of the planning system that each application must be decided on its individual planning merits.

The hon. Member for Kettering mentioned that at Burton Latimer, just south of Kettering, there are 10 operational wind turbines and there is consent for a further seven turbines on the same site. About 25 per cent. of the homes in Kettering benefit from the energy produced at that site. It will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 40,000 tonnes per year, which is equivalent to taking 25,000 cars off the road. That is a phenomenal achievement. I understand that there are other proposals both in and adjacent to Kettering. However, I am unable to comment on specific planning applications that are currently in the planning system given the Secretary of State’s potential role.

The Government have made it clear that wind farms should be located in appropriate places and that local concerns should be given appropriate consideration. As I said, the local planning authority considers each proposal on its merits and within the policy context. As with
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other proposals, all commercial renewable energy developments are subject to formal planning procedures that allow all relevant stakeholders, including members of the public, to put forward their views on the likely impact of any proposals on the environment and the local community.

Mr. Hollobone: There are still a few minutes left. Why can local councils zone areas for residential and industrial development through planning documents and local development frameworks, but not for wind farm development?

Mr. Malik: It is clear that those examples are like apples and pears; the two cannot be compared. Having said that, I do not suppose that that could not happen, but we do not do it currently. There are good reasons for that.

Like most other planning applications, wind farm proposals are a matter for local determination. However, renewable energy and the development of wind farms
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are important to the Government and the nation in their overall aims of reducing carbon emissions and energy security. I assure hon. Members that, as with any proposed development, individual schemes will have to submit planning applications. That process allows for full public consultation and robust testing for each application, and they will be decided on according to their merits.

Finally, I thank the hon. Members for Kettering and for Wellingborough (Mr. Bone) for contributing to this debate on an issue that is important at a national, regional and local level. It has given me the opportunity to set out the importance of wind farms within the wider challenge of increasing our ability to produce energy from renewable sources.

Question put and agreed to.

1.59 pm

Sitting adjourned.

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