Chancellor tipped by Greenpeace to reveal details of upgrade in north-east alongside plans for green investment bankRead the expert view on the green investment bank
David Adam, environment correspondent
guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 24 March 2010 07.00 GMT
The creation of a new "green infrastructure" bank in today's budget has been widely trailed, but campaigners say Alistair Darling may have another eco-friendly rabbit up his sleeve: the upgrade of a new port in the north-east to service the offshore wind industry.
Thousands of offshore wind turbines are planned by the government to meet EU targets on renewable energy, and Greenpeace says it expects the port decision to be announced with that in mind.
The campaign group called it "good news for Britain's competitiveness". Few ports currently have the capacity to service the heavy machinery needed to construct and maintain industrial-scale wind farms. Countries such as Germany have already invested heavily in ports and other offshore wind infrastructure.
Greenpeace also welcomed the plans for the green bank, which is expected to be funded with £1bn raised by the government sale of state assets such as the High Speed One rail link and the Student Loans book. The money would be channelled into low interest loans and other financial help for companies building green energy projects such as wind farms. Greenpeace said it was important that this money be earmarked for low-carbon investment only, to prevent it being siphoned into projects to build airport runways, roads and coal-fired power stations.
Ben Stafford, head of campaigns at the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said: "This budget may clarify where the chancellor's axe will fall. All parties are talking about ring-fencing particular budgets, such as schools and hospitals, but this suggests cuts will be deeper elsewhere."
He added: "The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) currently accounts for less than 0.5% of total government spending, and the Department of Energy and Climate Change for about 0.3%. In the grand scheme of things, this is small change lost down the back of the Whitehall sofa. At a time of growing threats to the environment and the countryside from development, climate change and simple neglect, it would be remarkably short-sighted for any political party to advocate trimming these budgets even further."