CPRE director of policy and campaigns Neil Sinden reflects on the Government’s announcement to introduce new planning guidance on onshore wind development and empower local communities in the decision making process. The announcement accompanied the decision to withdraw subsidies from wind farm projects in April 2016.
“While onshore wind can make an important and greener contribution to our energy mix, we need to ensure that new energy infrastructure does not damage the beauty, character and tranquillity of our countryside. Turbines built in the wrong place can cause harm to the landscape in a number of ways – through visual, noise or wildlife impacts.
“New infrastructure also impacts on local communities. Despite numerous planning reforms, communities still feel their local environment lacks sufficient protection from damaging development, so the new Government commitment is a welcome response to concerns about the impact of badly-sited developments on the landscape.
“Wind farms should only be allowed where local communities have been able to engage with developers and councils, achieving sensitively-located and well-designed infrastructure. Communities would prefer developments on brownfield or low quality agricultural land that have very low visual, noise and wildlife impacts. Offshore wind also needs good planning to minimise visual intrusion in coastal areas and the associated onshore impacts, such as grid connections.
“Planning policies should be able to effectively steer energy development to the most appropriate locations, and we need a community right of appeal against damaging proposals where a neighbourhood plan is being prepared.”