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Onshore wind back on the menu in England?

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The effective ban on new onshore wind projects in England is to be lifted, with government pledging to relax the planning laws surrounding the development of new turbines.

A consultation has been launched by the Department for Levelling up and the Energy Secretary Grant Shapps MP, exploring “how local authorities demonstrate local support and respond to views of their communities when considering onshore wind development in England”, and changes to national planning policy.

Under the proposals, planning permission would be dependent on a project being able to demonstrate local support and satisfactorily address any impacts identified by the local community. Local authorities would also have to demonstrate their support for certain areas as being suitable for onshore wind, moving away from rigid requirements for sites to be designated in local plans. Developments within national parks and/or areas of outstanding natural beauty will still likely be banned.

Despite onshore wind being one of the cheapest forms of energy and being continually backed by the majority of the public, planning rules, imposed by the then Prime Minister David Cameron, have effectively barred any new projects being developed in England for roughly the last 6 years. The change in policy is being seen as an attempt to quell unrest within the Tory ranks and one that is necessary to generate more clean energy quickly and cheaply to combat the energy crisis and decarbonise our power system.

RenewableUK chief executive Dan McGrail said:

“Creating a level playing-field for onshore wind will boost our energy security while ensuring there is local support for new projects, and we look forward to working with Government and communities on the detail of a new approach,” he said.

“Backing onshore wind is one of the best solutions to the energy crisis, as projects can be up and running within a year of getting planning permission.

“Growing the UK’s onshore wind capacity could add £45bn to our economy, grow our domestic renewable supply chain and support the competitiveness of British business”.

Zoisa North-Bond, CEO of Octopus Energy Group’s generation arm, says:

“Onshore wind is one of the cheapest and quickest forms of energy we can generate right here on our soil – and by removing the red tape, we can build it fast for communities that want it.

“We’re huge fans of onshore wind and so is the overwhelming majority of the British public*. Over 16,000 people have asked us for a wind turbine in their community. And through Winder, our digital match-making platform for wind, we’ve already identified 2.3GW of new onshore wind capacity with local support.

“By putting this green power in the hands of supportive local communities, we can bring cheap local energy to more people, increasing our energy security and reducing our dependence on imported fossil fuels.”

Andy Fewings, Partner, Renewable Energy at agribusiness consultants Bidwells, said:

“We welcome the news that the ban to Onshore wind in England will be lifted, not least because the transition to net-zero and energy independence for the UK depends on it.
England has a potential for a booming Onshore wind sector and that’s why investors have been lining up to support the industry for years.

“The requirement to demonstrate local support will be key for projects. Whilst this still gives onshore wind development in England a higher bar to achieve consent, it will be at the forefront of the minds of landowners as they choose developers to work with going forward.”

The consultation on changes to the National Planning Policy Framework will reportedly be launched by Christmas and concluded by the end of April 2023.

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