Government responds to consultation on ‘supportive communities’ for onshore wind

The government has published its response to a consultation on developing local partnerships for onshore wind with supportive communities in England.
The government describes onshore wind as “a cheap, mature and efficient renewable technology that is an important part of the energy mix with a key role to play in delivering on the UK’s climate goals” but it has been subject to a de facto ban. The government response says it “continues to believe that decisions on onshore wind are best made by local representatives who know their areas. This will ensure decisions are underpinned by democratic accountability”.
It says changes to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) in England will ensure that local authorities can respond “more flexibly” to suitable opportunities for onshore wind. New planning tests for proposed onshore wind developments would make clear that suitable locations can be identified in a number of ways, rather than solely through an area’s development plans which can take a number of years to be produced and adopted. Government hopes this will mean sites are identified more quickly, speeding up the process of allocating sites for onshore wind projects.
It wants to strengthening the link between pre-application consultation and best practice, so developers can demonstrate they have engaged the community early, reached as many people as possible and designed projects in response to feedback. The government is “open to novel ways to demonstrate community consent”, using new digital engagement techniques.
The response was supportive of repowering or extending the life of existing onshore wind sites, saying local planning authorities should approve these types of proposals if impacts “are or can be made acceptable”. The updated NPPF says that plans should maximise the future repowering and life-extension of renewable and low carbon energy sources such as onshore wind sites.
The response also said government would work with the onshore wind industry and other stakeholders to update the Community Benefits Protocol for England, take ownership of it and publish it as official government guidance. The updated Protocol will reflect the full range of benefits communities could receive, including local energy bill discounts, which government intends to publish by Summer 2024. The government intends to consider establishing a Community Benefits Register that can capture details of community benefits packages for onshore wind in England and a Protocol on “trust and transparency for communities” that developers would have to sign.
Ana Musat, executive director of policy, RenewableUK, said: “…The government is right to focus on early engagement and good practice guidelines, as they are vital in building strong relationships between onshore wind developers and local communities. This is already widespread throughout the industry. Developers already provide a wide range of benefits, from funding community projects to local electricity discount schemes. Flexibility is vital – it should be up to communities to decide what form the benefit will take, working closely with developers on a voluntary approach, and depending on the size of the wind farm. It makes sense to set a standard level for community benefit funds across the UK of £5,000 per megawatt of capacity. Communities can expect consistency across the country. It also provides certainty for investors and developers about the expectations placed on them.”
She added, “…communities in England will not be able to benefit from these funds unless there is significant planning reform. The government’s changes to planning policy in September don’t really remove the current de-facto ban on onshore wind. Communities in England can’t benefit from a wind farm proposal that’s never put to them because the planning system is too difficult for developers to navigate. We need to end the unique restrictions on onshore wind and treat it like any other energy infrastructure”.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *