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Future planning decisions for major onshore wind farms in England and Wales should be taken away from local authorities, according to government advisors. Big onshore wind farm projects, on the other hand, should be classified as “nationally significant,” according to the National Infrastructure Commission.
This would allow large projects to avoid local planning requirements.
Since 2016, there has been an effective embargo on onshore wind construction.
Because of restrictions on where onshore wind turbines may be placed, relatively few new schemes have been approved, despite the need to move UK electricity generation away from fossil fuels and towards renewables in order to reach 2050 climate goals.
More than two-thirds of the UK public are not opposed to onshore wind farms, although 12% are opposed to a wind farm being built locally.
In a report, the National Infrastructure Commission suggested that large onshore wind projects be included in the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects framework.
This is a method that permits huge projects to sidestep local planning regulations. Until 2016, onshore wind was included in the system, but it was later withdrawn, leaving choices on future projects to local governments.
This, along with the implementation of far stricter planning regulations in the National Planning Policy Framework, meant that relatively few new projects were permitted.
Following a Tory MP revolt, the government committed in December last year to ease restrictions on the construction of onshore wind farms.
According to a government spokesperson, the government will respond to the new study and is already “reforming the planning process to clear the path for the energy infrastructure we require.”
Last year, the government launched a survey on potential planning system modifications to get onshore wind projects more easily approved.
It stated at the time that decisions on potential sites should be made at the local level.
Such changes would not apply to Scotland, which has its own planning process and is not subject to the embargo.
RenewableUK, an energy industry organisation, stated that putting onshore wind planning standards in line with other forms of energy infrastructure, as indicated in the Commission’s report, would allow wind farm proposals to be considered on their merits.
According to James Robottom, the group’s head of onshore wind, the government’s current planned planning reforms “do almost nothing to remove the current de facto ban” on turbine planning permission.
The Commission’s proposals “would help to speed up the lengthy planning process and enable us to build vital new clean energy infrastructure faster, cutting bills for consumers and strengthening Britain’s energy security” , he added.