HC Deb 17 May 2004 vol 421 cc674-5
16. Mr. Ian Liddell-Grainger (Bridgwater) (Con)

What his policy is on the positioning of wind farms near military ranges. [173164]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Mr. Adam Ingram)

The Ministry of Defence fully supports Government policy and targets for renewable energy. We do not oppose wind farm developments unless the safety of MOD personnel or the public, UK defence systems or our operational capability appear to be adversely affected. That applies to both onshore and offshore developments.

Mr. Liddell-Grainger

Is the Minister aware that there is a helicopter range just off the coast of Somerset, and that West Somerset district council is about to receive an application for 12 wind turbines, 300 ft high and 128 ft across, just down the coast from the range? Has the Minister not thought what damage could be done, first to the helicopters and secondly to the wind farm, should things go wrong?

Mr. Ingram

I have. As I made clear in my answer, we have to ensure that there is compatibility between these twin objectives. I am advised that we have received applications for some 15 wind farm developments in Somerset; all the 11 objections raised were connected with radar interference, and none related to interference with range activities. It is not only the Ministry of Defence that is concerned about radar interference; civilian operations can also be affected by wind farms. We have to weigh our clear objective on renewable energy against the way in which wind farms can affect military or civilian overflights.

Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe and Nantwich) (Lab)

In that case, does my right hon. Friend recognise that it would be helpful if the Government were involved in the research on the effect on radar of wind farms at sea? It is clear that sufficient work has not yet gone into ensuring that we are well aware of the impacts of those structures, both on shipping and on radar installations.

Mr. Ingram

My hon. Friend is very experienced in these matters, and I bow to her greater immediate knowledge. She may have seen some research that I have not seen. All of us in the Government must make sure that we have a guaranteed approach that takes into account all the points of scientific and practical interest

which must be resolved. I am sure that those who have direct responsibility for carrying out the risk research will hear what my hon. Friend says, and I know that she will continue to pursue Government action on the matter.

Mr. Edward Leigh (Gainsborough) (Con)

The Government have just announced a major increase in the deployment at RAF Scampton. Star Energy has made an application to site half a dozen wind turbines, each as tall as Lincoln cathedral, within half a dozen miles of that major RAF base. Will the Minister explain his strategy? Will his officials take an interest in the matter? Is there a minimum distance requirement connected with radar or operational safety with which he can acquaint the House? This is obviously a matter of the utmost importance.

Mr. Ingram

The hon. Gentleman is right: it is a matter of the utmost importance that when we are relocating activity, in this case in the RAF, we take account of the region into which it is being moved. New applications for wind farms are covered by the response that I gave to the previous questions: we need to make sure that there is compatibility between the twin, or in some cases multiple, objectives that the Government are trying to deliver. We therefore take an interest in these matters. A decision has been made about RAF Scampton and is in the process of being finalised, and any change to the environment is something in which we would take a close interest.

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