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"Renewables must benefit coastal communities"

Energy Minister Charles Hendry has said the eastern region is well placed to take advantage of the growing demand for new and off-shore energy.

Mr Hendry said: “In nuclear, carbon capture and storage and renewable energy, East Anglia has an extremely important role to play.”

“The skills base and the expertise which is already there is very encouraging and the ambitions of the companies involved gives us much to celebrate.”

Mr Hendry was speaking during a Westminster Hall debate called by Waveney MP Peter Aldous, who wanted to highlight its importance and appeal for help in ensuring the growing renewable energy market would benefit local people.

“This is an important time in its fledgling life,” Mr Aldous told MPs.

“Exciting times lie ahead if the right investment and policy decisions are made and seen through. The future can be a bright one.”

Mr Aldous said thousands of new jobs could be created around the ports of Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft, and that the country could have a source of energy that’s secure and environmentally friendly.

“We are at the dawn of a new era. It’s important we realise the full potential that this opportunity presents for the East Anglian economy.”

Mr Aldous had several concerns. The Thanet offshore wind farm in Kent was a great engineering feat he said, but a lot of the construction work went to foreign companies and non-UK ports.

“Lessons must be learnt so that our coastal communities benefit fully from this opportunity.”

He also feared delays in the planning system, particularly over where new pylons and sub stations should go, were deterring developers. It must be accelerated, he stressed, adding that there was a need for better infrastructure along the Suffolk coast, particularly broadband and new roads.

The energy minister was fulsome in his praise for the region but said the government couldn’t force contractors to use British companies and ports. He pledged to pick up the phone and lobby on their behalf, and when it came to planning, he said the system was changing.

“It will get faster because [decisions] will be taken by ministers. Someone can be sure that within a year of submitting their application they will have a final decision. What frustrates people most is not being turned down but the absence of a decision,” he concluded.

The government is placing a lot of emphasis on the growth of renewable energy and it’s placing a lot of hope in the east.