Onshore wind given a new lease of life?

Onshore Wind

The government has committed to a technical consultation seeking views on how local authorities can demonstrate local support when considering onshore wind development in England.

The current position as set out at paragraph 158 of the NPPF is that “a proposed wind energy development involving one or more turbines should not be considered acceptable unless it is in an area identified as suitable for wind energy development in the development plan; and, following consultation, it can be demonstrated that the planning impacts identified by the affected local community have been fully addressed and the proposal has their backing.” This has effectively resulted in a ban on onshore wind introduced by David Cameron in the early years of the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition.

Pledging the consultation, the government explained that local authorities would need to demonstrate their support for certain areas as being suitable for onshore wind, rather than the “rigid requirements” for sites to be designated in local plans.

The proposal also commits to maintaining protections for landscapes such as national parks, areas of outstanding natural beauty and the green belt.

Views will also be sought on how the planning system can support communities to have a say on the necessary infrastructure to connect wind farms to the grid and encourage the upgrading of existing wind farm sites.

The government said it will launch the consultation by Christmas and it will conclude by the end of April 2023.

In other climate news, Levelling-up secretary Michael Gove has granted permission to the UK’s first new coal mine in 30 years near Whitehaven, Cumbria, after finding that its environmental harms could be justified by the coal it would provide for the steel industry in the UK and Europe.

Richard Pigott, Chartered Town Planner and Director at Planning & Design Practice said – “it remains unclear how hard it will be to demonstrate community support for an onshore wind project but this has to be a step in the right direction in the country’s drive to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050. At the same time, the government’s decision to allow the UK’s first new coal mine in 30 years near Whitehaven, Cumbria is somewhat puzzling to say the least.”

Greenpeace’s policy director Doug Parr said the UK risked being guilty of “climate hypocrisy” and Hugh Ellis of the Town and Country Planning Association described the move as a “shocking dereliction of duty”. Conservative MP Alok Sharma, former Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and president of COP26, described it as a “backwards step”.

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