The National Policy Statements will set out the latest Government thinking on how to streamline planning procedure for strategic infrastructure projects such as nuclear power stations, airports, expansion of the electricity grid, large wind farms etc. These Policy Statements will guide the work of the newly formed Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC).
When it comes to deciding planning applications for energy generating plants, only those with a proposed installed capacity of 50MW or more onshore (100MW offshore), will be determined by the IPC. All other energy generating infrastructure will continue to be determined at the local level.
According to the list of 11 energy projects in pre-planning compiled by the IPC (see http://infrastructure.independent.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/ProgrammeofProjects.pdf), four are onshore wind farms and one an offshore wind farm. The industry expects these projects to be determined much faster than under the current consenting regimes and has welcomed the inauguration of the IPC.
BWEA also hopes that, although NPSs are primarily designed to assist the IPC, these policies will be of material consideration under the local town and country planning system in England and Wales, and sees a valuable role for the IPC in bringing forward essential grid infrastructure and offshore wind.
Currently, there are 275 wind farm planning applications across the UK, excluding the 11 in pre planning mentioned above. Of these 36 are over 50MW, however, as 27 are in Scotland, National Policy Statements will not apply. Out of the 9 remaining, 2 are in England, 3 in Wales and 4 are off the coast of England.