Early consultation about wind farm proposals between local communities and developers are to become compulsory, giving local people a much greater say over wind turbine placement.
New measures, which will be laid before parliament shortly, will mean that developers seeking planning permission involving more than two turbines or any turbine exceeding 15 metres height will need to consult the local community. Developers will need to listen to the local community’s views on placement and other relevant planning issues before submitting a formal planning application.
These new measures are expected to come into force before the end of the year. It has not yet been confirmed whether or not they will allow communities to veto wind farms, but communities secretary Eric Pickles said the measures would stop people having wind farms “forced upon them”.
He added, “We are making sure local people have a crystal clear voice in airing their opinions on wind turbines very early on.
“Ensuring communities have a greater say at an early stage allows developers to consider much earlier whether to pursue a proposal and what changes they should consider before putting forward formal plans.”
In June, it was revealed that communities would be financially rewarded – through discounts on their energy bills – for living near wind farms.
Maf Smith, deputy chief executive of RenewableUK, said the organisation welcomed the publication of the government’s planning guidance, adding that it was part of the process of pre-consultation, which the industry has signed up to.
He continued, “The industry takes the process of public consultation very seriously and this openness is one of the reasons why onshore wind enjoys such high support with communities up and down the country.”
When the consultation measures were first announced the industry raised concerns that they could make some projects “uneconomic”.
Wind farms require a significant amount of investment upfront and the new measures could place pressure on this and increase costs. The UK is currently the number one destination for offshore wind investment and fourth of onshore wind, according to analysis by Ernst & Young.