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Onshore wind developments of over 50MW will require planning permission from 1 March 2016

In June last year, Communities Secretary, Greg Clark, announced that local residents would have the final say as to whether applications for onshore farms are successful. See our update 'Onshore wind farms – locals to have final say'. From 1 March 2016, the planning consent regime is changing for onshore wind stations of over 50 MW in England and Wales. 

Currently onshore wind farms with a capacity of over 50MW fall within the regime for nationally significant infrastructure projects (NSIPs). This means that applications are dealt with by the Secretary of State under the Development Consent Order (DCO) system, rather than under the usual planning regime. From 1 March 2016, the consent of the Secretary of State will not be required. This will bring large onshore wind projects back within the normal planning system.

This is clearly a move to demonstrate that the public, and not the government, is in control of whether any onshore wind developments go ahead. The change is likely to make it virtually impossible for all onshore wind farms to obtain planning consent. Under the existing regime, there is at least a small chance that consent would be granted under the DCO regime. From 1 March 2016, a local planning authority should only grant planning permission for an onshore wind development, no matter the size, if:

  • the development site is in an area identified as suitable for wind energy development in a Local or Neighbourhood Plan; and
  • following consultation, it can be demonstrated that the planning impacts identified by affected local communities have been fully addressed and the proposal has their backing.

The likely result is a halt on planning consents for onshore wind farms for the foreseeable future. This is because virtually no Local or Neighbourhood Plans have considered which areas might be suitable for wind energy development. It is clear from recovered appeals that the Secretary of State interprets his own Ministerial Statement as giving such weight to any planning-related objection from a local person that, in the absence of identified areas, any balancing exercise will not fall in the direction of wind energy development. In addition, local planning authorities are interpreting the Ministerial Statement as giving them the right to refuse to entertain wind energy applications until such time as suitable areas are defined. It seems unlikely that local planning authorities will feel inclined to identify any areas without being obliged to do so.  

Contributor: Alexandra Holsgrove Jones

This publication is intended for general guidance and represents our understanding of the relevant law and practice as at January 2016. Specific advice should be sought for specific cases. For more information see our terms & conditions on www.TLTsolicitors.com

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