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02/12/2021

Planning policy needs to harness the winds of change

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Small-scale wind power generation can support small businesses and communities while helping the nation reach net-zero, says Joe Ridgeon. So why aren't planning rules more favourable?

As government lays out its plans for a brighter, greener future in a move to cut greenhouse gas emissions, it’s time to consider changes to national planning policy if we are to deliver more of the small onshore wind turbine schemes the country will need to power the renewable energy revolution.

It should start with the NPPF and how its planning policies for England have to be applied. Currently, onshore wind turbines cannot receive planning permission unless an area is identified as suitable for wind energy in a local or neighbourhood plan. In addition, it needs to be demonstrated that the planning impacts identified by the affected local community have been fully addressed.

Where a vocal minority is against, these restrictions can stop developments, regardless of whether the site is suitable. A simple adjustment to introduce a presumption for wind turbines would unlock a huge opportunity for more small-scale wind turbine projects, helping to power growth in renewable energy.

The UK government has unveiled its ambitions for achieving net-zero, which would mean the UK no longer adding to the sum of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Surely now is the time for a policy rethink. Every farm and business with an appropriate site would be able to erect a wind turbine without worrying that planning will be the biggest risk to investment.

“A simple adjustment to introduce a presumption for wind turbines would unlock a huge opportunity”

With the likelihood of prices soaring this winter, there’s yet more reason to rethink current policies towards energy generation if we are to create fresh interest in wind turbines. Differentiating small turbines from larger wind farms and understanding the benefits and low visual impact they bring could be hugely significant. Moreover, rural landowners would be able to return energy control to UK businesses, helping them to become more competitive on the back of a reduced carbon footprint and improved UK energy security.

A boost for renewable energy projects can provide enough power for landowners and farmers to power their own homes and reduce their carbon footprint: we recently secured planning approval for such a scheme in Northumberland that provides a blueprint for other projects. Harnessing the wind is an efficient way to supply clean energy and contribute towards the renewable energy solutions we will increasingly turn towards.

Joe Ridgeon is director of Hedley Planning Services

Image credit | iStock

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