On 5 September, the government announced that onshore wind projects supported by local people would be approved more quickly in England and made amendments to the National Planning Policy Framework.
However, the House of Lords shares the view of many in the industry that this does not go far enough to support the production of the renewable energy required.
Under the Climate Change Act 2008, it is ‘the duty of the Secretary of State to ensure that the net UK carbon account for the year 2050 is at least 100% lower than the 1990 baseline.’
Yesterday, the House of Lords put forward an amendment to the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill (LURB). The result is that:
- Onshore wind will be put back in the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIP) regime if the generating station has a capacity of 50 megawatts or more; and
- The requirement for pre-application consultation will be removed for applications made under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. Currently the position is that consultation must be carried out ‘on a proposed application for planning permission for any development involving an installation for the harnessing of wind power for energy production where (a) the development involves the installation of more than 2 turbines; or (b) the hub height of any turbine exceeds 15 metres'
The Lords have set out that, within six months of the passing of the Act, the Secretary of State must republish all relevant national planning guidance to put onshore wind back within the scope of NSIPs and ‘to ensure parity with other renewable and low carbon development, including but not limited to, removing restrictions on onshore wind energy development in the National Planning Policy Framework and the energy National Policy Statements.’
The amendments to the NPPF as set out on 5 September despite being heralded by the government as a major change in the government’s policy towards onshore wind, were hugely disappointing. Whilst the general thrust of the House of Lords amendment to the LURB is very much to be welcomed, the uncertainty over the timeframe for the LURB to gain royal assent makes this amendment far from certain within any timeframe. However, as an indication of sentiment it does show that support for onshore wind may ultimately result in something substantive being done to change the current effective moratorium albeit not necessarily soon