Local government

Several local authorities are now adopting planning policies that enshrine a practical commitment to renewable energy.

Wind turbines and the planning system

From 6 April 2008, some microgeneration technologies became permitted development which means householders are able to take up microgeneration, within sensible limits, without having to apply for planning permission.

However, all but the smallest, or temporary, wind turbines still need to obtain planning permission as they are not yet permitted development. Monitoring masts for larger turbines may need a separate permission of their own. The UK Government has stated that wind turbines will also enjoy permitted development rights, once standards have been established to address the potential impacts of noise and vibration.

Local authorities are responsible for controlling development in their area and all have their own local planning policies.  Any wind turbine project should therefore be discussed at an early stage with the local authority’s planning officers. See the government’s Planning Portal at www.planningportal.gov.uk for more information about planning and building regulations in England and Wales.

Several local authorities are now adopting planning policies that enshrine a practical commitment to renewable energy. These may be found in their main Development Plan, or in Supplementary Planning Guidance (SPG) that provides further detail of policies and proposals.

Few authorities, however, have developed policies to specifically address urban wind turbine applications. Even when they have, these policies are not always as positive as they could be. For example, Leicester’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy in New Developments SPG (August 2002) states wind turbines need to be sited away from buildings. Newark and Sherwood District Council has an SPG document specifically on Wind Energy (July 1999) but this merely states that urban wind turbine proposals should be assessed against their general Development and Local Plan policies.

The planningrenewables.org.uk website provides information for local authority planners and councillors dealing with planning applications for renewable energy developments.

 

The Merton Rule - see www.themertonrule.org

In 2002, Merton Council in south London adopted a more innovative and prescriptive policy to expect all new non-residential development above a threshold of 1,000 sq.m. to incorporate renewable energy production equipment to provide at least 10% of predicted energy requirements. Following their lead, dozens of authorities in the UK have adopted or are considering adopting similar policies. Several have extended the ‘expectation’ to cover residential development as well as non-residential development.

Croydon’s Unitary Development Plan (UDP) is a very good example and states (policy EP16): “The Council will encourage all developments to incorporate renewable energy, but will require proposals for nonresidential developments exceeding 1,000 square metres gross floorspace, and new residential developments comprising 10 or more units, whether new build or conversion, to incorporate renewable energy production equipment to off-set at least 10% of predicted carbon emissions, except where:
a) the technology would be inappropriate;
b) it would have an adverse visual or amenity impact that would clearly outweigh the benefits of the technology; and
c) renewable energy cannot be incorporated to achieve the full 10%.
Where the 10% requirement cannot be achieved on major developments, a planning obligation will be sought to secure savings through the implementation of other local renewable energy schemes.”
(see www.croydon.gov.uk/environment/dcande/UDP/caudp)

A survey published by the Town and Country Planning Association on 8 June 2006 suggests that nearly 50 local authorities now have a ‘Merton-style requirement’ of at least ten per cent on-site renewable energy in new developments and more are considering doing so. The TCPA comment that the results point to often strong local support for the policies from politicians, communities and even developers but that the Government needs to go much further in order to maximise the potential of the planning system to incentivise the market for renewable energy. Those councils choosing not to adopt on-site renewables policies overwhelmingly cited Government policy and resources as the main reasons for not doing so.  See www.tcpa.org.uk/press_files/pressreleases_2006/20060608-SURVEY_RESULTS.htm and www.communities.gov.uk/index.asp?id=1500549

Speaking on the same day, at the TCPA / Renewable Energy Association conference, Housing and Planning Minister Yvette Cooper urged all local authorities to include on-site renewable energy measures in their local development plans to help tackle climate change.  The Government is now urging all local authorities to do the same and will include this request in the new planning policy guidance on climate change due out later this year. The Speech by Yvette Cooper is at http://www.communities.gov.uk/index.asp?id=1500655.

These policies mean that, without a very good reason, proposed large developments will be refused planning permission unless they meet the target for on-site renewable energy generation. This imposes extra costs and unfamiliar technologies on some developers, but the message is clear: there is a need to respond to climate change at a local level. The use of urban wind technologies and systems could clearly be part of a mix employed by developers to meet planning requirements for the on-site generation of renewable energy.