Welsh MP raises concerns about Crown Estate’s role in Celtic Sea offshore windfarm plans
The UK Climate Minister told Welsh MPs that “Britain is leading the world” in offshore wind during this morning’s House of Commons Welsh Affairs Committee meeting.
But Labour MP for Cynon Valley, Beth Winter, said there are concerns within the industry and wanted to know: “How can the Crown Estate be held to account?”
The Crown Estate has identified areas within the Celtic Sea where a floating offshore windfarm, it hopes, could be developed by 2035. The plan is to invite companies to tender for seabed leasing around mid-2023.
The Celtic Sea is part of the Atlantic Ocean lying between Southern Ireland, South West Wales, Cornwall and Western Brittany.
Climate Minister Graham Stuart MP and Dr Nicola Higgins, Offshore Wind Programme Director at the Department of for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, appeared before the Welsh Affairs Committee this morning.
Both took questions from MPs who wanted to know what the Westminster Government is doing to support the floating offshore wind sector in the Celtic Sea.
This morning’s committee, chaired by Stephen Crabb MP, kicked off with Crabb asking his fellow Tory, Climate Minister Graham Stuart, about the UK Government’s “vision” for offshore wind. Stuart spent the next five minutes explaining how “Britain is leading the world” and how “we are world-leading” as regards offshore wind.
This was a theme he seemed to warm to – and indeed return to – over the next half hour.
Beth Winter, the Labour MP for Cynon Valley had a question about the role of the Crown
Winter claimed that, “concerns have been raised” about the Crown Estate’s role, “by people like Renewables UK” as regards, “targets” and “acceleration of the programme”.
Winter wanted to know: “How the Crown Estate can be held to account for delivery of its programme?”
That appeared to be a tricky question for Stuart and Higgins who proceeded to look down and shuffle papers. Eventually, Stuart said: “I liaise with the Crown Estate … “, but the question remained unanswered.
Winter then asked Stuart the same question but in a different way: “Were you aware of concerns by some in the industry about the speed in which the Crown Estate is moving?”
Again, no straight answer was forthcoming, so fellow Tory MP Virginia Crosby for Ynys Môn asked: “How do you secure that local communities benefit from the supply chain?”
In her answer, Dr Higgins spoke about “research” carried out by the “industry” looking “at gaps in the supply chain market, looking at (manufacturers of) blades, turbines, foundation …” and concluded, “there are none of those companies so far in Wales.”
When plans for the first generation of floating offshore wind farms in the Celtic Sea were mooted earlier this year, Plaid Cymru once again called for the devolution of the Crown Estate.
The Crown Estate – which manages land and property owned by the Royal Family – is devolved in Scotland but not in Wales. This means that the money generated by the Crown Estate in Scotland goes into the coffers of the Scottish Government.
In Wales it goes straight to the UK Treasury in London.
Support our Nation today
For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.