Changes will give communities greater say on - and benefits from - the siting of onshore wind farms.

Press notice: 13/057

  • Local communities to have earlier and better involvement
  • Five-fold increase in benefits paid by developers to communities
  • Stable investment framework maintained

Communities will have a greater say over the siting of onshore wind farms, and reap increased benefits from hosting developments that do proceed, as a result of changes announced today.

The package of measures will include a five-fold increase in the value of community benefits paid for by developers, and proposals that will require communities to be consulted earlier in the application process.

Current planning decisions on onshore wind are not always reflecting a locally-led planning system. New planning guidance supporting the planning framework from DCLG will make clear that the need for renewable energy does not automatically override environmental protections and the planning concerns of local communities. It will give greater weight to landscape and visual impact concerns.

As part of the measures, the Government will make pre-application consultation with local communities compulsory for the more significant onshore wind applications (this is already the case for national infrastructure applications). This will ensure that community engagement takes place at an earlier stage in more cases and may assist in improving the quality of proposed onshore wind development.
Ministers will be writing to the Planning Inspectorate and councils immediately to flag up that new guidance will become available shortly.

Best practice guidance from DECC to onshore wind developers will lay down the higher standards expected in relation to their engagement with communities, and a new register will monitor best-practice.

Government will also assist local people to gain the skills they need to enable them to engage more confidently with developers.

The Government will be expecting the industry to revise its Community Benefit Protocol by the end of the year, to include an increase in the recommended community benefit package in England from £1,000/MW of installed capacity per year, to £5,000/MW/year for the lifetime of the windfarm.

Communities agreeing a medium-sized 20MW wind farm could therefore receive a package of benefits worth £100,000 per year, or up to £400 a year off each household’s annual bill.

Communities and developers work together to decide how the money should be used – for example, to provide households with money off their energy bills, to pay for energy efficiency initiatives, establish local training projects or fund other community initiatives.

At a scheme run by RES at their Meikle Carewe windfarm near Aberdeen, local residents will receive £122 off their annual electricity bills.

A new Community Energy Strategy, published this autumn, will set out how Government can encourage community ownership and investment in wind projects. A Call for Evidence on this strategy has been published by DECC today.

As well as this, a joint DECC/ Defra Rural Community Energy Fund will provide £15 million in loans and grants to rural communities. Based on the latest costs evidence, financial support for onshore wind – which was cut by 10% from April 2013 – will be held at the same rate, in line with the stable framework for investment in UK onshore wind.

On Thursday, Eric Pickles will announce that new DCLG planning practice guidance will become available on onshore wind to ensure more local decision-making and greater consideration for local environmental issues like landscape, heritage and local amenity. There will also be greater community consultation ahead of planning applications being submitted.

Secretary of State Edward Davey said:

“It is important that onshore wind is developed in a way that is truly sustainable – economically, environmentally and socially, and today’s announcement will ensure that communities see the windfall from hosting developments near to them, not just the wind farm”.

“We remain committed to the deployment of appropriately sited onshore wind, as a key part of a diverse, low-carbon and secure energy mix and committed to an evidence-based approach to supporting low carbon power.

“This is an important sector that is driving economic growth, supporting thousands of new jobs and providing a significant share of our electricity and I’m determined that local communities should share in these benefits.

Energy Minister, Michael Fallon said:

“Today, we are putting local people at the heart of decision making on onshore wind.

“We are changing the balance to ensure that they are consulted earlier and have more say against poorly sited or inadequately justified turbines.

“When new turbines are agreed, we will ensure that they are developed in a way that benefits the local community, such as through cheaper energy bills”.

Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, said:

“We want to give local communities a greater say on planning, to give greater weight to the protection of landscape, heritage and local amenity”. Government will deliver these changes in collaboration with industry and communities over the next 12 months.

Notes for Editors

  • Government’s response to the ‘Onshore Wind Call for Evidence’ was published today. The Call for Evidence ran from 20 September to 15 November 2012 and was issued in two parts: a) Community engagement and benefits, and b) examined the latest evidence on the costs of onshore wind to ensure levels of support through the Renewables Obligation were correct. 1,100 responses were received.
  • DCLG will make a statement on Thursday announcing a series of planning reforms to onshore wind.
  • DECC will publish further guidance for developers, and establish a register to monitor practices in due course.
  • Over 10TWh of renewable electricity was generated from onshore wind in 2011, enough to meet the average electricity consumption of almost 2.5 million households.
  • In 2011, onshore wind provided 3% of UK electricity supply. There is currently approximately 6.3GW (4074 turbines) of onshore wind in operation, 6.7GW (2857 turbines) under construction or awaiting construction and 5.7GW (2995 turbines) in planning system. Given attrition rates to date for planning and construction, this is likely to lead to up to the 13 GW we anticipate needing alongside other renewables to meet the 2020 renewables target. To meet the trajectory set out in the Renewable Energy Roadmap, we expect to need up to 13GW of onshore wind by 2020.
  • Between 1 April 2011 and 31 March 2012, there was over £1.6 billion of private sector investment in onshore wind, supporting around 1,800 jobs, and contributing to the Coalition Government’s objective to rebalance the economy and support economic growth.
  • Planning approvals in England have dropped in recent years. In 2008/2009, around 70 per cent of applications were approved and only 35 per cent were approved in 2012/13.

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