Fewer restrictions on onshore wind: the industry responds

The government has softened slightly over its de-facto ban on onshore wind in England.
Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, Michael Gove said: “To increase our energy security and develop a cleaner, greener economy, we are introducing new measures to allow local communities to back onshore wind power projects. This will only apply in areas where developments have community support, but these changes will help build on Britain’s enormous success as a global leader in offshore wind, helping us on our journey to Net Zero.”

Secretary of State for Energy Secretary and Net Zero, Claire Coutinho said, “Onshore wind also has a key role to play and these changes will help speed up the delivery of projects where local communities want them.”

The government says planning policy will be changed to make clear onshore wind developments can be identified in several ways such as Local Development Orders and Community Right to Build Orders, as well as through local plans. Councils “should consider the views of the whole community, rather than a small minority, when considering a planning application. This includes addressing the planning impact of onshore wind projects as identified by local communities”.
The announcement received a qualified welcome:

Matthew Clayton, Managing Director, Thrive Renewables:
“Overall, we welcome this micro adjustment away from a ban on onshore wind in England but feel that, in the context of a climate crisis and the urgency with which we need to address the financial and carbon cost of energy, this really isn’t adequate. Wind turbines should simply be treated the same as any other infrastructure by the planning system.
“We await further clarity on how communities will be able to demonstrate their support. In the meantime, as funders of the only onshore wind farm to be built in England so far this year, which is community owned, we continue to work with people and businesses to make projects happen and promote the benefits of local generation.”

Zoisa North-Bond, chief executive, Octopus Energy Generation:
“Today’s announcement is exactly what we’ve been asking for. We’ve had over 20,000 requests from communities wanting local wind turbines with discounted electricity through our Fan Club – and now it’s possible to build these again after eight years with a de facto ban.

“This is amazing news for communities – 9 out of 10 Brits would welcome a wind turbine near them if it cut their bills. We’ll now move rapidly to roll out even more Fan Clubs, and unleash Winder (Tinder for wind), to speed up the development of new onshore wind – providing cheaper energy for communities that want it.

“Streamlining the red tape, making the process more democratic, and speeding up the way local authorities can allocate sites for wind are all big steps in the right direction. New onshore wind can now be an even bigger part of the UK’s energy mix.

“This is especially significant in today’s cost of living crisis where it’s vital we accelerate bringing one of the cheapest and quickest forms of energy to customers.”

James Robottom, Head of Onshore Wind, RenewableUK:
“The proposed changes don’t go far enough. We will still face a planning system stacked against onshore wind that treats it differently to every other energy source or infrastructure project. A lot will be open to interpretation and there are still hurdles to navigate which remain in place. There has been a slight softening at the edges but nothing more. As a result, we’re not going to see investment into new onshore wind at the scale needed to rapidly cut bills and boost energy security.

“While industry will work with Government to see how these changes might be able to support a limited number of new developments, this is a missed opportunity to reinvigorate onshore wind in England after eight years of lost progress.

“It’s clear that a significant number of Conservative MPs support holding the Government to its promise to end the ban on onshore wind, and opposition parties are clear in their support for more significant planning reform. We need to build on this emerging cross-party consensus to develop a planning system that is fit for purpose, which supports communities who choose to host clean cheap energy projects, as well as our industry’s ability to invest in them”.

Sarah Merrick, Founder and Chief Executive, Ripple Energy:
“We welcome the overturning of the ban on onshore wind, it’s been a long time coming. It is key that local communities, as well as consumers more broadly, can directly benefit from the green low-cost power from wind farms near them. Ripple has already shown people owned wind farms work, now it’s time to roll these out across England. Households across the country must be able to own and directly benefit from the clean energy transition.”