On-farm wind projects threatened by planning change

New planning restrictions for wind turbines will make on-farm projects much more difficult, advisers have warned.

Communities secretary Greg Hands announced on Thursday (18 June) that people living nearby will have the final say on applications – one of the Conservatives’ pre-election promises.

Councils will only be allowed to approve a turbine if the site is in an area defined as suitable for wind energy.

And the farmer or developer will also have to address any grievances raised by residents during the consultation.

See also: Early wind subsidy cut makes new projects uncertain

The planning change was a further dent to wind projects, after the government announced hours earlier that a large subsidy would be closed early.

Mark Newton, Fisher German partner and head of renewable energy, said the new rules would make applications much more difficult and lengthy, even for just one turbine.

He said this was a blow for farmers in isolated areas suffering from poor livestock and crop prices, whose only diversification option is often wind energy.

“It is certainly going to make life a lot more difficult for genuine farmers who want to do small-scale renewables,” Mr Newton said. “This is what the government should be encouraging.”

Mr Newton said farmers looking at wind energy projects would now have to set aside more time for applications.

Figures show the success rates for getting installations through planning are already becoming more difficult.

About 68% of wind applications were successful in 2013, falling to 45% last year.

The average application time even for a single, small turbine is 40 weeks. In 2013 the average time was 30 weeks.

H&H Land and Property renewable and energy adviser Victoria Lancaster said applications that are already in the planning system could also suffer.

The government has said any ongoing application where the area’s local plan does not pick out suitable sites for wind will need the approval of local residents.

Many councils have not yet had the chance to include these sites in their local or neighbourhoods.

“This means that turbines which are stuck in the planning appeal system are being robbed of the opportunity to develop their project, many of which have taken years to get this far and cost them thousands of pounds along the way,” Ms Lancaster said.

NFU president Meurig Raymond said the government should have consulted more widely.

He said the NFU wanted a distinction made between “farm wind” and “wind farms”.

“These new planning rules could significantly impact on our members’ ability to invest in wind projects on farm, reduce their input costs and make farm enterprises more sustainable,” Mr Raymond said.


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