Bowing to pressure from MPs and local communities the government has announced a series of measures to give local communities more say in planning applications for onshore wind development and the chance of greater community benefits. This was all revealed in a Written Ministerial Statement from Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.
So what does giving “local people far more ability to shape the places in which they live” now mean in relation to windfarms?
Firstly, secondary legislation will be amended to make pre-application consultation with local communities compulsory for more significant onshore wind applications.
Secondly, the Government will be expecting the windfarm industry to revise its Community Benefit Protocol by the end of the year, to include an increase in the recommended community benefit package in England from £1,000/MW of installed capacity per year, to £5,000/MW/year for the lifetime of the windfarm.
Thirdly, and potentially the more significant change, is the change of emphasis flagged up in proposed new planning practice guidance. Eric Pickles in his statement said:
” We need to ensure decisions do get the environmental balance right in line with the framework and, as expected by the framework, any adverse impact from a wind farm development is addressed satisfactorily.”
So councils will be expected to have local plan policy that ensure adverse impacts from wind farms are covered.
And to ensure planning decisions reflect the balance in the framework new planning practice guidance will be issued. Setting out:
- the need for renewable energy does not automatically override environmental protections and the planning concerns of local communities;
- decisions should take into account the cumulative impact of wind turbines and properly reflect the increasing impact on (a) the landscape and (b) local amenity as the number of turbines in the area increases;
- local topography should be a factor in assessing whether wind turbines have a damaging impact on the landscape (i.e. recognise that the impact on predominantly flat landscapes can be as great or greater than as on hilly or mountainous ones);
- great care should be taken to ensure heritage assets are conserved in a manner appropriate to their significance, including the impact of proposals on views important to their setting.
Windfarm development affecting your area? Could these changes benefit you? To find out more email or call Michael on 01282 872570.