Climate emergencies: development plans need to deal with onshore wind

Towards the end of last year, the Prime Minister set out plans to ‘Build Back Greener’ by making the UK the world leader in clean wind energy.

The focus has been very much on offshore wind. In contrast, onshore projects face obstacles at the planning stage.

What does the NPPF say?

The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) applies in England. Paragraph 154 provides that, when determining planning applications for renewable energy developments, local planning authorities should approve the application if its impacts are (or can be made) acceptable. 

However, this is subject to footnote 49, which was inserted following a Written Ministerial Statement in 2015. This amended planning policy in relation to onshore wind in England, and states that:

"Except for applications for the repowering of existing wind turbines, a proposed wind energy development involving one or more turbines should not be considered acceptable unless it is in an area identified as suitable for wind energy development in the development plan; and, following consultation, it can be demonstrated that the planning impacts identified by the affected local community have been fully addressed and the proposal has their backing."

In short, unless the local planning authority has identified an area as suitable for wind turbines in its development plan, the concerns of the local community have been addressed, and the proposal has their backing, planning permission will not be given for onshore wind developments.

In our experience, very few development plans have been addressing the issue. The result is that, with the exception of community projects, onshore wind projects will not get planning permission.

Is the tide turning for onshore wind?

With many councils declaring climate emergencies, maybe change is on the way. Cornwall Council, for example, is currently consulting on its ‘climate emergency’ development plan document, which allocates areas suitable for onshore wind turbines. The plan provides that wind energy development proposals will be permitted if they are in these areas and also:

  • demonstrate that, following consultation, the planning impacts identified by the affected local community have been fully addressed by the proposal; and
  • avoid or adequately mitigate shadow, flicker, noise and adverse impact on air traffic operations, radar and air navigational installations; and
  • do not have an overshadowing or overbearing effect on nearby habitations.

The potential implications on the migratory flightpaths of birds must also be considered.

With an increasing number of councils declaring climate emergencies, we hope to see more local planning authorities dealing with onshore wind development in their development plans by identifying areas suitable for onshore wind turbines, bringing an end to the effective moratorium that has been in place since the Written Ministerial Statement was made in 2015.

TLT has extensive advice in advising on all aspects of wind projects. If you would like to discuss your requirements, please get in touch.

This publication is intended for general guidance and represents our understanding of the relevant law and practice as at March 2021. Specific advice should be sought for specific cases. For more information see our terms & conditions.

Contributor: Alexandra Holsgrove Jones

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