New planning rules to encourage renewable energy

The government set out its planning policies to encourage the development of renewable energy this week.

Planning policy statement 22: Renewable Energy (PPS22) states that regional and local plans should contain policies designed to promote and encourage, rather than restrict, the development of renewable energy resources, and that targets for renewable generation should be set out in regional strategies.

It will allow local planning authorities to set requirements for renewable energy in new buildings as well as encouraging small scale renewable resources in existing developments. It states that the government believes that renewable energy developments can be built throughout the country, so long as the technology is viable and the environmental, social and economic impacts can be addressed in a satisfactory manner.

The policy has caused some controversy, with anti-wind farm groups and the Conservative party claiming it would lead to an abundance of wind farms in inappropriate places, and that any local objections would be over ruled (see related story).

However, Minister for planning, Keith Hill, dismissed these suggestions.

"Although wind energy is expected to make a significant contribution to meeting our 10% renewable energy target by 2010, these policies will apply equally to all other renewable energy technologies, such as energy from solar resources, biomass, wave and tidal technologies and energy crops. The development of a wide range of renewable energy resources is vital in our fight against global warming and climate change," he said.

He said that while PPS22 ensures continued protection for valued landscapes, such as national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty, there was no reason why some small-scale renewable energy developments - such as solar panels on buildings - could not be accommodated without serious environmental impact.

Chris Tomlinson, Head of Onshore for the British Wind Energy Association (BWEA), said: "This is a welcome statement and policy guide for planners and Councillors who have until now been working with guidance 11 years old, written at a time when renewable energy targets had not even been set. It paves the way for more consistent planning policies and more informed decisions across the country."

BWEA released research last week claiming that, on average, wind farm planning applications take 12 months to be determined. The association believe that PPS22 will speed this process up as decision makers become better informed of national energy objectives and planning issues for consideration.

Friends of the Earth Campaigns Director, Mike Childs said: "It is good to see the government is taking these small steps to promote the development of renewable energy resources in this country. But if the government is serious in tackling climate change, it must do far more than tweak its planning guidance - we need to see policies to promote renewable energy and cut carbon dioxide emissions across the whole of government."

PPS22 will be accompanied by a best practice guide and technical annex later in the year.

By David Hopkins



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