More robust wind turbine plans needed, farmers told

Politics and local opposition are increasing challenges for new wind turbine projects. This means that more detailed and robust information has to be provided during the planning process, says Fisher German’s head of renewable energy, Mark Newton.

He highlights recent figures published by RenewableUK that show planning approval rates have slumped in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Wales saw the biggest drop in local consenting rates, from 64% of applications in 2013 to 29% this year, while 33% were approved locally in England, down from 58% last year. Consents awarded at appeal dropped from 69% to 47%.

Mr Newton says local action groups are becoming more organised and the protection of heritage assets has become more important since West Coast Energy lost a High Court case for wind turbines near a listed English Heritage property in Northamptonshire.

Also, communities secretary Eric Pickles has extended his powers to call in planning applications that have already received approval through the normal planning committee process, which appears to have worsened approval rates, says Mr Newton.

“With the forthcoming general and local elections, planning decisions for all types of development will become more political.”

He suggests that it may be slightly easier to get smaller-scale turbines (50kW) through the planning system, but developers still need to demonstrate the turbine will not have a detrimental impact on areas like landscape, heritage and ecology.