The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) earlier this week issued new planning guidance for local councils and authorities, aiming to help them pit renewable energy projects against other environmental concerns in their jurisdiction. Alongside the new guidance, the DCLG issued a statement encouraging local councils to think about the greater environmental impact when issuing planning permission to renewable energy, stating green energy “does not automatically override environmental protections and the planning concerns of local communities”.
Communities Minister Baroness Hanham announced the guidelines, believing they will encourage planning officers to take into consideration more local environmental concerns , such as impact on landscape and conservation areas.
“Our new planning practice guidance will help decisions on green energy get the environmental balance right in line with the framework,” she said. “Meeting our energy goals should not be used to justify the wrong development in the wrong location.”
Trade association RenewableUK was among the first to add their backing to the new rules, stating that they look forward to the greater certainty they would provide when gaining permission for projects.
Deputy Chief executive Maf Smith welcomed working to the new guidelines, “Following a long debate about onshore wind costs and benefits, we trust that this period of uncertainty for the industry is now at an end, and that we will see planning policy and guidance producing robust, objective planning decisions,” he said.
Conversely, Friends of the Earth’s planning campaigner Naomi Luhde-Thompson said the new rules will reduce the number of renewable energy projects being developed as councils will be less inclined to think of the bigger picture, saying:
“It’s staggering that the minister has refused to insist on councils playing their part in developing renewable energy goals – unless everyone takes urgent action, the UK will fail to meet its targets for slashing emissions,”
The UK currently has a target for renewable energy to provide 15% of the nation’s energy by 2020.