West Briton column 2 May 2013

Investing in generating more of our own energy is vital for our national security. In 2010 the Coalition faced some bleak predictions about future energy prices and supply. Decisive action has been taken to set out a road map to tackle these issues, focusing on using insulation to save energy and money for home owners, and on implementing better regulation to ensure energy companies keep bills as low as possible.

Investment in a wide range of energy generation to avoid dependency on one source, including renewable energy, is an important part of this action plan. I was pleased to welcome the Minister for Energy and Climate Change, Greg Barker, Cornwall last week and introduce him to some of the many innovators and businesses here, not only creating new jobs, but new renewable energies from our abundant natural resources in Cornwall.

Greg visited Fab Test, part of the SW Marine Energy Park that he has championed in government. He saw first hand energy being made from waves off Falmouth and learned about the great research partnership between Exeter University and local companies that is supporting this innovation.

Not all renewable energy is as well supported by the public as wave and tidal. I was pleased the Minister restated government policy that the best place for solar panels are on roof tops or former industrial land, not on green farmland. He was clear that solar farms should not proceed if they impacted on beautiful landscapes, or didn’t have the support of the local community.

The same is true for onshore wind turbines. For some time many Conservative MPs, have been asking for improved guidance from central government to local government on planning for wind turbines. During his visit the Minister confirmed the publication will be soon.

Planning decisions are the responsibility of Cornwall Council but subject to national policy. I was delighted that Cornwall Councillors last week voted with national ports and maritime strategy and to keep Falmouth Wharves and the thriving businesses located there.

At the heart of national policy is a power shift to local residents, enabling them to shape and protect their places where they live. The Coalition has devolved a huge amount of decision making power from Westminster to Cornwall Council. With that power comes responsibility. A responsibility to work with people and communities to make the best possible decisions on planning our future.

So when I go to the polling station today to choose my Parish and Cornwall Councillors, I will be putting my crosses next to the people who understand the powers they, and the communities they aspire to represent, now have. During these times of challenge and opportunity the Duchy needs team players with a positive attitude. I would encourage you to go out and vote today, and to support can-do candidates; those who have the ability and willingness to work with you to ensure that the new local powers improve lives across our community and across Cornwall, today and in the years to come.

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