Government gives greater weight to local concerns over renewable energy projects

sustainability useful

It will be tougher for developers to get planning permission to build wind farms and large-scale solar developments under new planning guidance issued this week.

The Department for Communities and Local Government unveiled changes to planning guidance, which say local authority planners must now give greater weight to considerations such as the landscape and heritage of the local area when making decision about large-scale renewable energy projects, such as wind farms or solar developments.

There have been long-standing concerns that consideration of these issues has been overridden by a national drive towards low-carbon energy.

In a statement in the House of Lords, Baroness Hanham said: “Meeting our energy goals should not be used to justify the wrong development in the wrong location.”

She said the guidance “made it plain” that the views of local people should be “listened to” by planners.

However, the guidance stopped short of giving local communities the ability to veto wind farms or other renewable energy projects, which previous press reports had suggested they would.

The department also introduced similar requirements for waste management developments.

Hanham said the requirements would strengthen the protections for green belt land by ensuring that wider environmental economic benefits do not trump local concerns.

Paul Barwell, chief executive of the Solar Trade Association, said it was “worrying” that the solar industry had not been consulted on the changes.

He said the department was “downplaying” the threat of climate change. “The negative rhetoric of today’s ministerial statements ignores the benefits of renewables, and presents these measures as simply a means of restricting their growth,” he said.

“Only ten days earlier the same department presented guidance for oil and gas exploration as measures to ‘help support the shale gas industry’.”