Sunak performs second U-turn in 48 hours as Tory MPs threaten to rebel

Sunak performs second U-turn in 48 hours as Tory MPs threatent to rebel <i>(Image: PA)</i>
Sunak performs second U-turn in 48 hours as Tory MPs threatent to rebel (Image: PA)

RISHI Sunak has performed his second U-turn in as many days after Tory MPs threatened to rebel over a continued ban on new onshore wind farms.

The Prime Minister opposed the farms when he stood unsuccessfully for the Tory leadership against Liz Truss in the summer, but was backed into a corner by his own backbenchers, including Ms Truss.

He has promised to consult on local communities giving consent to fresh projects south of the border.

The U-turn came just a day after Mr Sunak backed down over mandatory housebuilding targets in England, letting councils reject central targets after Tory MPs objected to them.

Labour branded him “in office but not in power” after that flip-flop.

The latest climbdown followed a Tory backbench rebellion against the existing de-facto ban on new onshore wind projects.

Ms Truss and Boris Johnson both signed an amendment to the Government’s Levelling Up Bill tabled by former minister Simon Clarke to allow new onshore wind.

Ms Truss moved to relax planning rules during her fleeting tenure at No 10, but Mr Johnson did not seek to overturn the ban, which has been in place since 2015, when in office.

Under the new proposals, planning permission would be dependent on demonstrating local support and “appropriately” addressing any impacts identified by the community, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) said.

Ministers will also seek views on partnerships with “supportive” communities, so those who wish to host new developments can gain a benefit, such as lower energy bills.

Mr Clarke said he was “really pleased” to see a “sensible agreement” reached on the issue.

He said it meant decisions on new projects were made locally "rather than have Whitehall rule it out".

Sir Keir Starmer has said a Labour government would scrap the planning ban to help make the UK a clean energy superpower.

Shadow levelling up secretary Lisa Nandy suggested the move was a “fudge” that left a “very restrictive system” on onshore wind in place.

She said ministers had been "forced into this position because they're too weak to stand up to another backbench rebellion".

Under current rules, companies in England can only apply to build onshore wind turbines on land specifically identified for them, resulting in a de facto ban that Mr Sunak had promised to maintain.

Housing Secretary Michael Gove said the government now intended to rewrite planning guidance to enable local areas to identify sites "suitable for onshore wind".

He said this would let ministers "move away from the overly rigid requirement for onshore wind sites to be designated in a local plan".