A report, conducted by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), has found a 20% drop in planning approval rates for wind and solar, as a result of planning reforms and interventions from government ministers.
The investigation found that a heavy reliance on the secretary of state to approve or stop clean energy developments in rural areas had left the system “chaotic and unstable”. In the last year, the secretary of state only approved 20% of developments, a significant drop from 100% of the previous year.
CPRE have thus concluded that better planning and fiscal incentives are needed to locate renewable energy on appropriate sites. It also added that without proper planning policy, better strategic planning and significant incentives for renewables on brownfield sites in particular, the countryside is still at risk due to unpredictable ministerial interventions.
Nick Clack, senior energy campaigner at the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said, “We applaud the government for taking action to stop renewable energy projects that would have a damaging effect on the countryside.
“But without a clearer and more strategic approach to planning in the first place, we’re relying on one minister to intervene and protect our landscapes.
“Planning policy must be further clarified to make sure that the need for renewable energy does not automatically override environmental protection and the wishes of local communities. A more robust planning system would also provide more certainty for communities, developers and investors.
The report concluded that there is enough space for more than 250,000 hectares of solar panels in the UK, all of which would not damage the countryside. This involves south-facing commercial and private buildings and potential brownfield land.
The investigation has also encouraged current government legislation that promotes renewable developments on land unsuitable for housing – as well as current incentives – but stresses the need to lift restrictions as well as increasing efficiency on planning applications and processes.
Clack added, “The current approach to planning renewable projects, that are needed to produce low-carbon energy, is chaotic and unsustainable.
“With the pressure for renewable energy in the countryside only set to increase, we need to see further improvements in planning policy and incentives for brownfield and commercial sites.”
Photo source: “Caveman Chuck” Coker via flickr