Out-Law / Your Daily Need-To-Know

Out-Law News 2 min. read

Onshore wind development in England given government green light

Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

The de facto ban on onshore wind development in England has been lifted.

On Monday, the government confirmed that two planning policy tests that have served as a barrier to onshore wind development in England since 2015, “no longer apply”. The move is designed to support the new government’s aims of scaling up renewable energy generation in the UK – aims that include doubling onshore wind capacity by 2030.

The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) had, until now, provided that onshore wind development proposals could only be brought forward in certain areas of England where they had been allocated in development plans or in development orders. In most cases, any proposed schemes also had to demonstrate “community support”. The government said that, in practice, “this has often been interpreted to mean that any opposition means the proposal cannot be considered acceptable”.

Removing these tests means applications for onshore wind development schemes in England will now “be treated in the same way as other energy development proposals”, the government said.

The government said the changes will be set out in the “forthcoming NPPF update” – an update it said would also contain other meaningful reforms “to support renewable energy development”.

In its latest statement, the government said that it also intends to consult on bringing large onshore proposals within the scope of the ‘nationally significant infrastructure projects’ (NSIPs) regime “to support quick determination”, and follow this by revising the relevant national policy statement (NPS).

NSIPs are subject to a different consenting regime to other projects in England. A development consent order needs to be obtained from the secretary of state in order for those projects to go ahead. Different NPSs apply depending on the specific type of project planned. They set out the factors that need to be weighed by decision-makers when assessing the relevant applications. A raft of energy NPSs is in place to account for different types of energy technologies.

The government added that it intends to “empower” local communities “to participate in decisions on local infrastructure” and that it plans to “shortly publish an update to the community benefits protocol for onshore wind in England” to ensure communities benefit from hosting such energy infrastructure.

Gary McGovern of Pinsent Masons said: “It is good to see immediate action on the policy side to remove the 'de facto ban' on onshore wind. This is a good start, but more is needed so that onshore wind is properly set back on a level playing field with other renewable technologies: a clear target to positively encourage development – up to, but also beyond, 2030, which is not far away; legislation reversing the 2016 amendments excluding onshore wind from NSIP regime; and re-introduction of onshore wind to the general energy NPS and the specific renewable energy NPS.”

Gareth Phillips of Pinsent Masons added: “This announcement is welcome, but more information is required on what the new government is planning in respect of its further reforms.”

“For example, the scope and extent of the wider changes to the NPPF to support renewable energy development is unclear. It is also unclear when, and to what extent, the NPS will be updated – whether this will reintroduce onshore wind within scope of those statements or go further and apply wider changes. The energy NPSs were only just revised earlier this year,” he said.

“Developers will also be keen to understand how the government plans to empower communities to participate in decisions on local infrastructure and how this differs from the form of community approval in place currently. There is also a difficult balance for government to strike in setting community benefit rates that are fair to communities while being commercially viable for developers,” Phillips added.

We are processing your request. \n Thank you for your patience. An error occurred. This could be due to inactivity on the page - please try again.