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Government shakes up planning rules for wind farms

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Changes to planning rules for wind farms could allow local people to veto developments

The government has announced changes to planning rules which will give local communities a greater say on the development of wind farms.

Changes include increasing the value of community benefits paid to communities where wind farms are sited and a requirement to consult local communities earlier on in the application process.  

Money coming into local areas from wind farm developments can be used to provide residents with money off their energy bills, to pay for energy efficiency initiatives, establish local training projects, or fund other community initiatives.

Secretary of state Ed Davey said: ‘It is important that onshore wind is developed in a way that is truly sustainable – economically, environmentally and socially, and today’s announcement will ensure that communities see the windfall from hosting developments near to them, not just the wind farm’.

Eric Pickles, secretary of state for communities and local government, added: ‘We want to give local communities a greater say on planning, to give greater weight to the protection of landscape, heritage and local amenity’.

Despite welcoming the changes, the wind industry’s trade association, RenewableUK, has warned they could lead to a reduction in projects going ahead.

RenewableUK’s chief executive, Maria McCaffery said: ‘Developing wind farms requires a significant amount of investment to be made upfront. Adding to this cost, by following the government’s advice that we should pay substantially more into community funds for future projects, may unfortunately make some onshore wind energy developments uneconomic in England, so they will not go ahead and that is very disappointing.’

In recent years the number of wind farms gaining planning permission has significantly reduced. In 2009 around 70 per cent of applications won approval but  this has now dropped to just 35 per cent.

Across the country the building of wind farms is more often than not contrary to the wishes of local people

Paula Ridley, Chair of Civic Voice commented: ‘It is fair to say that across the country the building of wind farms is more often than not contrary to the wishes of local people who regard a remote energy company benefiting to the detriment of the rest of the community.

‘We do not dispute the need to reduce carbon emissions but we know how important it is that concerns of local communities are taken into account. We welcome this announcement, giving people more say in their local area and we look forward to reviewing the detail.

She added: ‘It is not that the civic movement is fundamentally against wind power - it is just that the planning rules and the community benefit seem slightly disjointed. A planning policy that respects community views in deciding what is important and protects everyday places can only be welcomed.’

The changes come despite public support for renewables reaching an all time high. A recent survey by DECC showed 68 per cent of people either support or strongly support onshore wind, with just 11 per cent being opposed to it.

Green campaigners are worried about the effect this will have on the UK’s renewable energy sector.

Another day, another government attack on efforts to tackle climate change

Friends of the Earth’s head of campaigns Andrew Pendleton said: ‘Another day, another government attack on efforts to tackle climate change.

‘Communities should have a say on wind farms and get direct benefits for hosting them, but rigging the planning system to allow a vocal minority to block turbines would be a disaster.

‘Carbon-intensive developments such as fracking, airport expansion and new roads will also impact on local people - so is the Government planning to give communities a greater say on these too? 

‘If the Government continues to scare away green investors it will leave the economy and cash-strapped households hooked on dirty and increasingly costly fossil fuel for decades.’

The changes are set to come in over the next 12 months.

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