The UK government on Tuesday unveiled changes to ease the de facto ban on onshore wind farms in England.
It said the measures will allow more onshore wind parks to be built where they get the support of the local community. In response to a consultation, the government confirmed planning policy will be changed so that onshore wind developments can be identified in several ways rather than through local plans. In addition, when considering a planning application, local councils will acknowledge the views of the whole community, rather than a small minority.
The government said that in the autumn it will set out its next steps in relation to its consultation on proposals for improved benefits and rewards for communities that support onshore wind farms.
RenewableUK said the changes do not go far enough. “While industry will work with Government to see how these changes might be able to support a limited number of new developments, this is a missed opportunity to reinvigorate onshore wind in England after eight years of lost progress,” commented the organisation’s Head of Onshore Wind, James Robottom.
Robottom further called for taking advantage of a political consensus on the matter. “It’s clear that a significant number of Conservative MPs support holding the Government to its promise to end the ban on onshore wind, and opposition parties are clear in their support for more significant planning reform. We need to build on this emerging cross-party consensus to develop a planning system that is fit for purpose, which supports communities who choose to host clean cheap energy projects, as well as our industry’s ability to invest in them".
Energy UK highlighted that onshore wind will still not be treated equally to other infrastructure.
“While today’s statement confirms the changes the Government proposed last year, it has not, as yet, put onshore wind in the position where it is treated the same in the same way as other infrastructure planning applications. Without that, this will represent a missed opportunity as developers will remain reluctant about committing the time and expense of putting forward new onshore projects knowing they still face a higher risk of being blocked,” said Energy UK’s Deputy Chief Executive Dhara Vyas.