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UK Government lifts ‘de facto’ onshore wind farm ban

UK Government lifts ‘de facto’ onshore wind farm ban

The UK Government has removed restrictions on onshore wind farms, a move announced by Rachel Reeves as part of her maiden speech as Chancellor of the Exchequer. 

With the Labour Government setting out its stall to bring sustained economic growth to the UK, while also investing in environmental sustainability, effective July 8, the Government has abolished specific planning policy tests that have been viewed as a de facto ban on onshore wind developments in England since 2015. 

Previously, developments were only considered acceptable within specifically designated areas or if they demonstrated community support, often interpreted as requiring zero opposition.

The Chancellor detailed that onshore wind applications will now be evaluated similarly to other types of energy development, without the additional hurdles previously mandated. This change is part of a broader strategy to double the capacity of onshore wind by 2030.

To meet that doubling of capacity, the new UK Government has also announced that it will consult on incorporating large onshore wind projects into the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project regime, ensuring a faster decision-making process. This will be accompanied by an updated National Policy Statement.

However, while many may have hoped that the new UK Government would go on the offensive against NIMBYism, Reeves noted that it is still important to have the local community involved in these developments. During her maiden speech she noted that the answer can’t always be ‘no’, but understood the importance of local community support. 

With that in mind, a revised Community Benefits Protocol for Onshore Wind in England will be released soon, aiming to ensure that communities hosting renewable energy infrastructure will receive tangible benefits.

This policy update will be formally communicated to Parliament on July 18, following the State Opening of Parliament, and reflected in the forthcoming update to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).

Responding to the announcement, Dan McGrail, RenewableUK’s Chief Executive , noted, “Lifting the onshore wind ban in England was long overdue and we’re delighted that Labour has made this one of its first priorities in office. This shows that the new Government is determined to act fast to tackle some of the longstanding barriers which have held the UK back on developing vital new clean energy infrastructure. 

“Public support for onshore wind remains sky-high throughout the UK at 78% according to the latest official polling, as billpayers know that new wind farms provide electricity at very low cost, as well as strengthening our energy security and tackling climate change. Polling also shows that most people want to see the planning system reformed, as they’re frustrated that an onshore wind farm proposal which is overwhelmingly popular in a local area can be stopped by just a handful of opponents.

“The onshore wind industry is committed to ensuring that communities are properly consulted about any proposals, including the wide range of economic benefits they will bring to local people. This process can take several years, including measures which help ensure that wildlife is protected, so it will be some time before brand new projects go ahead in England.

“Modern turbines are substantially more efficient and powerful than the turbines built in previous decades, so doubling the UK’s onshore wind capacity by 2030 won’t mean doubling the number of turbines in the UK. We can generate more power from fewer new turbines, and we can replace older turbines with far more powerful ones, making the most of our superb natural wind resources. Our research shows that delivering 30 gigawatts of onshore wind by the end of the decade would boost the economy by £45 billion and create 27,000 jobs”.

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