To complement the CESP on which we reported above, Housing and Planning Minister, John Healey, recently launched a three month consultation on overhauling the planning system to allow homeowners, developers and businesses to install their own on-site wind turbines, and air source heat pumps without planning permission. Wind turbines up to 15 metres high would also be permitted in locations where they would not become a nuisance to residents. Councils and electric car owners could also be permitted to install electric car charger points on streets and in car parks without planning permission.

The latest proposals follow changes made to the General Permitted Development Order last year which gave householders the right to install certain microgeneration equipment. Under the proposed changes, non domestic properties would benefit from similar rights.

When launching the consultation, Mr. Healey was careful to stress that the relaxation of planning rules would come with strict caveats about size, noise levels, location and the visual impact on an area – these limitations would vary for detached and non-detached properties, for residential and industrial areas, for conservation areas and national parks.

As always, the devil will be in the detail and, if the limitations are too strict, the proposals may not amount to much. There is also the possibility that, by the time the consultation ends in mid-February 2010, the proposals may get delayed in the impending General Election. However, the general thrust of encouraging microgeneration and renewable energy initiatives is shared by all of the main parties.

The proposals are undoubtedly a step in the right direction for the renewable energy sector and could represent a real opportunity for growth for businesses offering micro-technologies, as well as those businesses catering for the non-domestic market. For example, one of the proposed changes for non-domestic premises is to allow the installation (subject to limitations) of flues for biomass and combined heat and power systems, opening up a potentially huge market to those with the appropriate technology to offer.