HC Deb 17 June 2002 vol 387 cc13-4
10. Ms Julia Drown (South Swindon)

If he will make a statement on the grounds on which his Department opposes wind farm planning applications. [58680]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Dr. Lewis Moonie)

Every proposal is considered individually. The criteria for that case-by-case consideration is that of the effect of the development on the ability to train our pilots safely, and on operational capability. The Ministry of Defence is also mindful of the potential impact on microwave link communication and Met Office radars.

The presence of wind turbines in most areas of the United Kingdom would present no difficulty to low-flying aircraft, and those and other naturally tall structures are taken into account as part of routine planning. In certain circumstances, wind turbines have the potential to affect radar adversely. Research is currently under way with the Department of Trade and Industry into the impact of wind farms on radar.

The three specially designated tactical training areas are located in central Wales, northern Scotland and the border area of northern England and southern Scotland. Within those areas, military fast jets may fly at 100 ft. There are clearly specific considerations to be taken into account in those areas.

Ms Drown

I thank the Minister for that reply. Whereas the Ministry of Defence has objected to nearly half the applications for wind farms in this country, there are 6,000 wind farms in Denmark, none of which has been objected to on the ground that radar might be interfered with. Given that the Government need to increase renewable energy drastically if we are to meet our Kyoto targets, will he try to learn lessons from the Danes so that the Ministry of Defence is not such an obstruction to the Government meeting their environmental targets?

Dr. Moonie

I am not sure about lessons from the Danes. One lesson that I might take from them is that they build their windmills in flat areas similar to the countryside around Swindon rather than on hill crests in Scotland, where they would impinge on the environment in which I like to take my leisure.

We give careful consideration to such developments and we do not object to proposals lightly. In fact, we are carrying out further research to see whether we might narrow the areas that give rise to objections. However, I repeat the truism that in low-flying tactical training areas, where aircraft fly as low as 100 ft, structures that may be 200 or 300 ft high are not likely to be welcome.

Mr. Henry Bellingham (North-West Norfolk)

Is the Minister aware that aircraft, especially from RAF Marham, regularly fly very low over the north-west part of my constituency and across the Wash? Is he aware that there is a planning application for a number of wind turbines onshore, in the area around Hunstanton, and that another has been submitted for 60 turbines offshore in the Wash, very near the RAF bombing range? What is his view, especially on the latter application and its potential effect on the viability of that bombing range?

Dr. Moonie

I cannot say that I have looked into the bombing range, although given the number of precision munitions that we buy nowadays, we might be able to build closer to it than we could in the past. Of the 18 offshore applications received so far, we have objected to five. That shows that we take seriously our role as a Government who are trying to support renewable energy.