The Localism Bill, published today, is set to usher the most radical overhaul of local planning in the last 60 years, stated RenewableUK, the countrys leading renewable energy trade association. Many of the Bills proposals could have a profound impact on renewable energy projects, while others could have a bearing on project economics and overall renewable energy targets.
With nearly 270 wind farms in planning onshore, totalling over 7 gigawatts (sufficient to power 4 million homes per annum), the Association has identified proposals on local referendums, predetermination, neighbourhood planning, pre application consultations, abolition of regional spatial strategies and the community infrastructure levy as being of particular importance.
Charles Anglin, RenewableUKs Director of Communications, said:
There is no doubt that this Bill, once it becomes law, will dramatically alter the rules for developing renewable energy projects, and the industry will have to follow suit. We could be looking at a radically different planning process, with councillors allowed or even encouraged to campaign ahead of the decision, and the result in some cases being made by referendum. We will need to consult with communities ahead of logging an application and make sure that the economic and community benefits are clear.
RenewableUK is waiting for clarity on the plans to involve neighbourhoods in the decision making, and details on how planning at neighbourhood level will integrate with council planning procedures. It has also stated that allowing councillors to campaign on planning issues must be balanced with the need to get a fair hearing. On proposals such as the abolition of regional spatial strategies the Association has stated that it is looking forward to engaging with Government to make sure that the localism agenda helps in reaching the UKs renewable energy targets.
RenewableUK is already working on a set of proposals to ensure that people at the local level see a clear benefit from hosting renewable energy projects. We are looking forward to working with the Government to ensure that renewable energy projects are developed in a responsible, democratic and clearly beneficial way, concluded Anglin.