Relax planning law on microgenerators says think tank

Councils should remove obstacles in the way of householders wishing to install solar panels and wind turbines and could even go as far as offering cash incentives for those who choose to do so.

This was the conclusion of local authority think tank, the New Local Government Network, in a report entitled Finding the energy: domestic microgeneration and planning.

Those installing microgenerators at their homes could receive a council tax rebate or interest-free loan from their local council to encourage more people to opt for eco-friendly home generation, to supplement existing grants from Central Government, says the report.

It also urges authorities to consult local people to see if they would be happy to see planning regulations relaxed for small-scale home-based renewables.

The report suggests that the forthcoming Planning Bill could be amended to reflect this new level of public involvement.

Central government could also give local authorities incentives to promote microgeneration through a performance grant that would reward those whom improve most quickly.

This could form a part of the local government grants regime and be cost-neutral for central government, where the cost of rewarding successful authorities is offset by a mild penalty for poor performance.

James Macgregor, author of the report, said: “local authorities should be required to demonstrate that microgeneration plans were in the public interest.

“This would require neighbourhood level consultation and debate, giving citizens a powerful voice. Councillors would be at the heart of this process, supported by local officers. Listening to the voices of local people in this way would ensure that ‘residential amenity’ was protected as defined by residents.

“Council tax rebates and capital loans for householders that install domestic microgeneration equipment would incentivise local people to engage in the process”.

“This system would empower local citizens and frontline representatives to take ownership of the impact of domestic microgeneration in their neighbourhoods.”

David Gibbs

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