Planning permission process restricts renewables projects for farmers

A majority of farmers see the process of gaining planning permission as a barrier against carrying out renewable energy projects, according to the National Farmers Union (NFU).

The NFU said in its Environmental Factsheet that every farmer should have the opportunity to become a net exporter of low-carbon energy services but government legislation is getting in the way.

The NFU’s assistant environment policy advisor, Rebecca Wells, told edie: “In addition [to the difficulty with planning permission] the recent changes to the Feed-in Tariffs and the Renewables Obligation has created uncertainty and nervousness amongst farmers to invest in the long-term sustainability of their businesses.

However, a Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) spokesperson responded by saying the government spends around £400m a year on environmentally friendly farming schemes which account for nearly 70% of England’s farmlands.

The Defra spokesperson told edie: “We recently published the comprehensive Green Food Project with partners across the entire food chain looking at how all levels can become more sustainable, including on issues such as energy use and water use, so that we can produce more food and improve the environment.

The NFU, however, believe more government funding is needed to meet environmental challenges.

Rebecca Wells said: “Over 200,000ha of farmland are managed for the environment voluntarily of which 96,776ha are managed in line with the Campaign for the Farmed Environment which provides a list of measures endorsed by environmental and wildlife NGOs including the RSPB.

“Funding for ecosystems services would help farmers to better manage their soils, water and greenhouse gas emissions, rather than just provide habitat for individual species”.

A recent NFU survey found that by mid-2012, 20% of farmers and growers will be producing clean electricity.

Rebecca Wells added: “We estimate that replacing fossil fuel energy sources with land-based renewables could reduce UK greenhouse gas emissions by the equivalent of 12m tonnes of CO2 by 2020”.

She added: “Agricultures view renewable energy as a fantastic opportunity to reduce energy costs on farms and to diversify”.

Leigh Stringer

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