The Government is going to make wind farm developments in England faster and easier to complete. It is taking action because no new wind farms have been approved in the past seven years.
Developers were forced to address local concerns about a new wind farm, and just one person could hold up an entire project. The rules that were put in place in 2015 have effectively stopped the construction of any new onshore wind farms in the UK since then.
The rules currently in place put the onus on councils to map out areas that would be suitable for wind development, and most simply did not have the resources to do this. Such permission is not needed for any other type of development.
The renewables industry has tentatively welcomed today's announcement to make it easier for developers to build wind turbines in England for the first time in seven years. Jess Ralston, senior analyst at the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, said: “Around eight in 10 people support onshore wind, so the ban has been a major anomaly in British energy policy given it’s both cheap and popular with the public.”
The Government says reforms to the rules will bring “onshore wind planning policy in line with other infrastructure to allow it to be deployed more easily in England”. But energy insiders warned that more detail will be needed, and rules will have to be changed, before they know how significant the move will be.
Dan McGrail, the chief executive of trade body RenewableUK, said: “Removing the block on onshore wind in England means we can generate significantly more cheap electricity for hard-pressed bill payers in areas where projects have local support.” He added: “Speeding up the planning process for offshore wind is vital too as it will allow us to unlock an enormous amount of new capacity much faster.”
But green experts also warned that the plans will also make it easier for companies to drill for oil and gas, which could throw the country off course in attempting to meet its environmental targets. “The Chancellor’s statement offered neither the policies, investment, or strategy to realise the huge opportunities to create prosperity that delivering net zero and restoring nature offer,” said Luke Murphy, associate director of energy, climate, housing and infrastructure at the IPPR think tank.
“There were welcome albeit small steps on energy efficiency and depending on the detail, onshore wind, but in other areas the Government is going in the opposite direction. It is removing the moratorium on fracking, expediting licenses to drill for more climate-destroying and expensive oil and gas, and proposing to rip up environmental protections.”