Changes to UK planning guidance would give local communities more say over wind farms

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Posted by:
Dane Wilkins
Renewable Energy Capital, UK

Under new government guidelines proposed today, residents in England could be given greater power to block onshore wind farms in their local areas.  Local authorities have been advised that resident  concerns over the impact of wind turbines on their local  environment should take priority over renewable energy targets.

As an incentive to ensure on shore wind farm developments do not fall off the radar completely, the government has offered communities a significant increase in financial incentives for agreeing to host a nearby wind farm. The new reforms will see the payments offered by developers to communities increase from the current circa £1,000 per megawatt of installed capacity each year to circa £5,000 per megawatt.

Given current community benefit payments are comparatively low compared to other leading European countries with greater renewable energy deployment rates these proposals should be welcomed. Wind farm deployment on the continent particularly in Denmark and Germany has historically been far more successful than the UK, attributed in part to the involvement of the community in their development. These proposals will help communities to engage in the development process and will ensure a benchmark is visibly established in terms of community benefits. I believe this is commendable even if a small number of borderline projects are deemed unviable due to the additional cost.

One point of concern however is that different communities have different capabilities and resources available to successfully negotiate with wind farm developers so it will be important for sufficient support networks to be put in place to ensure all communities are able to access accurate information and informed advice.

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