Published: Thursday, 25th June 2015
The government has wasted little time in honouring manifesto pledges over giving local communities a greater say over onshore wind farm projects and axing subsidies for them.
Communities Secretary Greg Clark has announced new planning rules, in the guise of new policy measures, which took effect from 18 June.
Under these new provisions councils should only grant permission for wind turbines in their area if the site is in an area identified as suitable for wind energy as part of a local or neighbourhood plan and following consultation, the planning impacts identified by affected local communities have been fully addressed and therefore have their backing.
Clark told Parliament: “This will ensure the planning concerns of local communities are addressed – even if they give their backing for wind farms in their area through the local or neighbourhood plan.
“If a planning application has already been made for wind turbines in an area where the local plan does not identify suitable sites, the council will only be able to approve the application where it addresses the planning concerns of the affected community and therefore has local backing.”
Meanwhile, Energy Secretary Amber Rudd has announced that the current support mechanism, known as the Renewables Obligation, for onshore wind will close at the end of March next year, some 12 months earlier than originally expected.
Rudd told MPs that there would be a “grace period” for projects already in the pipeline but estimated that projects totaling over seven gigawatts of capacity would not now go ahead. “That equates to 250 projects totaling about 2,500 turbines,” she told the Commons.
Rudd was specifically asked if she could reassure MPs that the Planning Inspectorate could not over rule local objections to wind farms. Rudd replied: “Yes, I can”.