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Planning for renewables

Source: Public Sector Executive Mar/Apr 12

The new National Planning Policy Framework seeks to simplify complex guidance with a view to promote ‘sustainable development’. But how does this affect planning for renewable energy technologies? Kate Ashley reports.

Planning minister Greg Clark says policy changes will support the implementation of renewable energy in the UK.

The new National Planning Policy Framework says that councils “should recognise the responsibility on all communities to contribute to energy generation from renewable or low-carbon sources”, and encourages the development of a positive strategy to promote renewable energy.

Companies seeking to develop renewable energy will no longer have to demonstrate an overall need for renewables – this will be a given.

Local authorities will need to identify suitable areas for renewable energy generation, support community-led renewable initiatives and look for opportunities for their energy supply to be drawn from renewables.

At the heart of the new planning framework is the presumption in favour of ‘sustainable development’, and of the five principles used to assess this, two offer specific support for renewables; living within environmental limits and achieving a sustainable economy.

Jonathan Galton, head of planning and policy at Climate Consulting, said: “By and large we echo the general reaction that the tighter definition of sustainability is reassuring, along with the retention of key elements from earlier policy statements on flooding and renewable energy. Most importantly, we are pleased to see the removal of the notorious ‘yes’ default answer to development proposals.

“The release of the national framework should now act as a spur to local planners to ensure their policies on a range of issues, including climate change, are robust, practical and relevant. Through the ‘presumption in favour of sustainable development’ planning applications can no longer be refused over specific issues if the local authority’s policies on these areas are out-of-date or simply non-existent.”

There are worries, though, that the greater powers given to communities could jeopardise the development of certain renewables, such as wind farms, due to their unpopularity with some homeowners

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