Marie Stacey, planning manager at Hallmark Power gives a rundown of some of the common hurdles involved in getting a farm wind turbine project off the ground.
While a wind turbine can provide a good regular income for many years, installing one can be costly and time-consuming.
As well as the cost of the installation itself, the planning process is lengthy, typically taking eight to 16 weeks from submission to the determination of the planning application. Extra reports and consultant advice may also be needed, depending on the site.
Local Development Plan
All planning applications have to be decided in accordance with the Local Development Plan for your area unless material considerations indicate otherwise.
Check the planning policy section of your local authority website to understand the potential constraints within your area. This can give you an early indication of the likely implications for your planning application. If in doubt, call your local authority to speak to a planning policy officer.
You can also check recent planning applications by looking through the planning authority database online or speaking to a planning officer.
The planning application fees charged by the local planning authority for a turbine are dependent on the site area and will be £385/0.1ha.
An ecological appraisal for the supporting documentation will be needed with the application.
These commonly cost between £800 and £1,200 and take about three to four weeks to complete. They provide details of designated sites, such as Special Protection Areas and Sites of Special Scientific Interest, as well as habitats and protected species likely to be found in the area.
They also give an indication of the potential impact of the proposed development and whether further survey work would be required.
If you are close to a designated site with particular bird or bat species around, it is likely that more survey work will be needed to evaluate the potential impact of a turbine.
Landscape and visual amenity
National and local landscape designations, such as National Parks or Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, exist to conserve and enhance natural beauty alongside wildlife and cultural heritage.
Even if you’re not in one of these designated areas, you’ll need a Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment (LVIA) with your planning application.
Although no one has a right to a view, in planning terms the visual harm to the enjoyment of a place is a material consideration.
So a wind turbine would need to be positioned in an appropriate area and this would be covered by the LVIA.
These use computer imagery to demonstrate the potential impact on the landscape, cost about £2,500 to £4,000 and take four to six weeks to complete.
Noise and shadow flicker
Consideration of the distance between a wind turbine and residential properties is important due to the visual impact as well as potential noise and shadow flicker.
Shadow flicker is caused periodically when rotating turbine blades cast shadows through windows and other small gaps. Through careful siting, shadow flicker impact can be avoided.
Depending on the turbine and the distance to residential developments, a noise assessment might also be needed, costing about £300.
Smaller turbines (for example 50kW) should generally be sited no closer than 270m from a non-financially involved residential dwelling while a large turbine (for example 500kW) might need 500m separation, although much depends on other background noise. For example, a turbine sited near a motorway providing other background noise may be considered less intrusive than one in another, quieter site.
The distance to an airfield, RAF base, Met Office radar or a communication system can be a major issue. It’s important to check potential interference with this infrastructure very early on.
Ministry of Defence installations often provide the greatest barrier to the siting of turbines. Other bodies that may need to be consulted include the Civil Aviation Authority and National Air Traffic Services.
However, even if the site is within the so-called “safeguarding zone”, micro-siting (precise placement) and mitigation (steps to reduce the visual or environmental impact) can overcome some issues.
Although it’s unlikely that a wind turbine would directly affect listed buildings, conservation areas and other heritage sites, the setting of architecturally or historically significant places should still be taken into account. A Heritage Impact Statement may be necessary and could cost up to £3,000.
TV transmitters and masts
A turbine can interfere with electromagnetic transmissions by emitting a signal itself, or by interfering with other signals. The nature of the interference depends on the size of the structure relative to the wavelength of the radiation. With careful siting, wind turbines should not cause significant problems and any objections can usually be overcome. As well as affecting TV and mobile phone services, signals from turbines have the potential to disrupt signals from remote monitoring equipment for gas and other utility installations.
This is important to establish early as large HGVs and cranes will need access to deliver the large components associated with the turbine.
Smaller turbines are unlikely to have abnormal loads but larger turbines are likely to need careful management. In this case a traffic management plan is required either as part of the planning application as a condition of the planning permission. This typically costs £5,000.
- Installers Hallmark Power is part of Hallmark Tractors and is one of the largest installers of renewable energy in the UK.