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Planners told not to feel swayed by amenity issues when determining green energy schemes

Words: Laura Edgar
Carl Sargeant | National Assembly for Wales

Planning minister Carl Sargeant has written to all chief planning officers highlighting the importance of not being too influenced by visual and amenity issues when considering renewable and low-carbon energy schemes.

His letter said: “I appreciate that visual and amenity impact on surrounding communities and properties is an important issue (and policies are in place to protect against unacceptably adverse impacts) and that discussions of this nature can become quite emotive during the planning process.

“However, planning decisions need to be taken in the wider public interest and in a rational way, informed by evidence, where these issues are balanced against other factors.”

The letter highlighted that the Energy Saving Trust has been commissioned by the government to deliver training for local planning authority members and officers on community renewables.

Sargeant also noted that in England permitted development rights for commercial properties have increased so that up to 1 megawatt solar panels can be installed on roofs subject to a prior approval procedure.

“I want to see if there is an alternative option available in Wales that will be less cumbersome for developers and those in the business community seeking to generate their own energy.

“We recently commissioned Arcadis to carry out research in this area and this is due to be completed by the spring of 2016.”

He added: “The Welsh Government is committed to using all possible levers it has to increase the supply of renewable energy in Wales for the benefit of the next generation and I expect local planning authorities to take the initiative in delivering sustainable outcomes for future generations.”

Sargeant's letter can be found here (pdf).

Image credit | National Assembly for Wales