Julian’s Monthly York Press Column
February 14, 2015
The Prime Minister and the Chancellor were up in Yorkshire last week, discussing the economic future of our county with local businesses. The Government’s commitment to building a Northern Powerhouse to rival that of London will not only help to rebalance our whole economy, it will also go a long way to bridging the decades old North-South divide.
Yorkshire has the potential to play an even greater role in the national economy as businesses from all over the world are keen to invest here. Our economic recovery to date has resulted in a dramatic fall in unemployment, which has dropped by more than two-thirds in York over the past five years. In fact, more jobs were created in Yorkshire last year than in the whole of France, a truly incredible achievement. More importantly, the majority of these new jobs are full time, highly skilled occupations, the kind of careers our school leavers and graduates need to get on in life.
Sadly, one thing the Prime Minister may have noticed on his way to the Woolpack pub on the Emmerdale television set was the sheer number of wind turbines that have appeared all over Yorkshire. The East Riding alone has the second highest number of turbines in the country after Northumberland and local residents are now saying enough is enough. In Kexby to the east of York I am doing everything I can to stop the construction of an enormous turbine that is nearly eighty metres high. To put this into perspective, York Minster is only sixty-one metres tall at its highest point. As you can imagine many local residents are up in arms over the proposed development, which will greatly impact on the community and will spoil the countryside views for miles around.
Let me be clear, I am not against renewable energy, far from it. Having been a farmer all my life I know just how important it is that we protect our natural environment from harm. That is one of the reasons why I am fighting to save York’s surrounding countryside from the large scale over-development currently being proposed by the Council. However, it is becoming increasingly clear that onshore wind turbines such as the one proposed at Kexby are a poor solution to the complex problem of diversifying our energy supply.
Currently, the lucrative subsidies go entirely to the developers whilst local communities are stuck with the turbines in their backyards. The system also drains much needed resources away from other more efficient renewable sources, such as solar panels on people’s roofs. This form of energy has the potential to generate much more electricity than wind turbines whilst having minimal impact on the surrounding landscape.
There are many exciting opportunities for renewable energy in Yorkshire, particularly in offshore wind in the North Sea. The Dogger Bank wind farm will be one of the largest of its kind anywhere in the world, generating enough electricity to power up to two million homes. Not only is this energy supply much more reliable than onshore wind, there is no damage to the surrounding countryside as it is located eighty miles off the coast of Bridlington.
Furthermore, whereas most onshore wind turbines are imported from abroad, we have the opportunity to make the offshore turbines here in Yorkshire. Siemens and Associated British Ports are investing over £300 million into Hull, which will create over a thousand new highly skilled manufacturing jobs. Not only will this allow us to build our own turbines, we will be well placed to become global leaders in this industry and export British machinery across the world.
Surely this is a more sensible energy policy and I will be campaigning hard to stop the lucrative subsidies going to onshore wind turbines. We need a more dynamic and secure energy mix for future generations that focuses on jobs, investment and local communities.