The National Planning Practice Guidance has been amended following a Written Ministerial Statement made yesterday (18 June 2015). In England, local planning authorities should (subject to the transitional arrangement below) only grant planning permission 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 therefore the proposal has their backing.
Whether the proposal has the backing of the affected local community is a planning judgement for the local planning authority.
Where a valid planning application for an onshore wind development has already been submitted to a local planning authority and the development plan does not identify suitable sites, local planning authorities can find the proposal acceptable if, following consultation, they are satisfied it has addressed the planning impacts identified by affected local communities and therefore has their backing.
The changes are only to the Planning Practice Guidance. No changes have been made to legislation or the National Planning Policy Framework at this stage. Therefore, local planning authorities must continue to determine applications in accordance with the development plan unless material considerations indicate otherwise. The amendments constitute one such consideration that a local planning authority will have to weigh in the planning balance.
The amendments were expected following a recent announcement by the Department for Communities and Local Government to give local people the final say. The amendments are in the wake of significant, recent Ministerial intervention against onshore wind developments; and are in addition to the proposed changes in the Energy Bill to remove onshore wind projects from the Planning Act and Electricity Act regimes, further details of which can be found here.
The amendments occur against the backdrop of a number of independent but related changes impacting onshore wind developments, including the early closure of the Renewables Obligation, which was confirmed yesterday.