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Onshore Wind Planning Changes ‘Aim To Provide Balance On Developments’

Legal Experts React To Latest Announcement


By Rob Dixon

The Government’s planned changes to allow communities to have a greater say over decisions made related to onshore windfarms could provide balance and clarity over how the location of developments is decided, according to planning specialists at Irwin Mitchell.

According to the Government, communities will be consulted earlier in the application process and the measures will also include a five-fold increase in the value of benefits paid by developers to communities.

Guidance from the Department of Energy and Climate Change will also highlight to wind developers higher standards in relation to engagement with communities, while the Government will also assist local people to engage more confidently with developers.

Energy minister Michael Fallon said the aim was to ensure local people are “at the heart of decision making onshore wind”.

Emily Williams, an associate based at Irwin Mitchell’s Manchester office who specialises in advising businesses on planning issues, said it will be interesting to see what kind of impact the changes will have over the coming months.

She outlined:  “The driver behind the latest guidance has been the perceived imbalance between local issues and wider government global policy when it comes to renewable energy and caring for the environment.
“National energy policy has been seen by local people as overriding local concerns but it will be interesting to see the impact that these changes have, particularly the powers it will offer local opposition to renewable energy development. Another important issue will be whether these changes will remain linked solely to onshore wind or are subsequently expanded to cover other kinds of renewable energy schemes.

“However, the concepts of local consultation and cumulative impact assessment are already addressed by developers in the formulation of applications for onshore wind and other renewable energy projects.

“This is also the case in nationally significant infrastructure projects, where up front and transparent consultation culminating in a statement of the consultation that has taken place and how the views aired have been addressed is already a formal requirement. To that extent, developers are already familiar with some of the concepts in the new guidance which are now compulsory.”

Justin Neal, a solicitor who specialises in acting for individuals and communities affected by planning and environmental issues for Irwin Mitchell’s Public Law team, added: “There is currently a great deal of uncertainty for both developers and local communities in the planning process. This has contributed to the conflicts between the different groups, driven by policies to reduce carbon emissions on the one hand and local concerns over aesthetics and noise on the other. 

“However, new guidance could provide greater clarity for all those involved and create opportunities for working together to provide viable renewable forms of energy production with lower impacts on the local environment.”

Read more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise in relation to Environmental Law and Planning