Government eases restrictions on onshore windfarms 

Amendment to Energy Bill agreed today removes onerous requirements that effectively banned new onshore wind projects. 

Renewable energy is better for the environment and our energy security, and saves us all money by drawing less power from the national grid. What’s not to love? Well, since 2015 there have been major obstacles in the way of new wind farms…

wind turbines on hill during dusk

Photo by Yeyo Salas

One rule required local authorities to produce detailed plans of all possible sites for such projects before one could be approved. Another rule meant that a proposal could be stopped if just a single person objected.  

The effect of these rules was devastating, according to data analysed by Cardiff University. Between 2011 and 2015, before the rules came in, planning permission was granted for 435 new turbines. Yet over the next five-year period, 2016-20, planning permission was given to just 16 new projects. 

But as of today, the government has streamlined the rules in the National Planning Policy Framework in two key ways: 

First, local communities are now to propose onshore wind projects themselves. Planning policy will be changed to make it clear that onshore wind developments can be identified in several ways, such as through local development orders and community right-to-build orders, rather than solely through local plans. 

Secondly, councils are being told that in considering a planning application they should consider the views of the whole community rather than a small minority. This includes addressing the planning impact of onshore wind projects as identified by local communities.  

In this, the intention is for local decisions related to onshore wind continue to be decided by elected local councillors, accountable to the people of that community. But now the hope is that where such projects demonstrate local support, they can proceed more swiftly.  

What’s more, incentives have also been proposed so that those supporting such projects can reap the benefits of cheaper energy. The government has already consulted on such rewards and will set out its response later this year.  

This is all within a wider context of a huge change in the way we source energy. According to government figures, 42% of the UK’s electricity generation in 2022 came from renewable sources – up from just 7% in 2010.   

Even so, the government has recognised that much more must be done – and quickly – to generate the clean, cheap and renewable energy we all need.   

Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, says: ‘To increase our energy security and develop a cleaner, greener economy, we are introducing new measures to allow local communities to back onshore wind power projects. 

‘This will only apply in areas where developments have community support, but these changes will help build on Britain’s enormous success as a global leader in offshore wind, helping us on our journey to Net Zero.’ 

Claire Coutinho, Secretary of State for Energy Secretary and Net Zero, adds: ‘The Energy Bill is the most significant piece of energy legislation in a generation and will help us provide a cleaner, cheaper and more secure energy system for the UK. 

‘Renewables are a crucial part of our energy transition. They accounted for just 7% of our electricity generation in 2010, and almost 48% in the first quarter of this year. The UK is already home to the world’s four largest offshore wind farms, and we have invested and made available over £1 billion for Sizewell C – the first direct state backing of a nuclear project in over 30 years. 

‘Onshore wind also has a key role to play and these changes will help speed up the delivery of projects where local communities want them.’

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