Half of wind farms refused planning permission

11th July 2011


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  • Renewable ,
  • Mitigation ,
  • Energy ,
  • Generation

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IEMA

UK local authorities rejected 48% of applications to build onshore wind farms last year threatening the country's ability to meet wind energy targets, according to law firm McGrigors.

Figures collated by the company reveal that even though there are fewer applications from onshore wind developers being submitted to councils, a greater proportion of them are being denied planning permission. In 2005 just 29% of applications were refused, rising to 33% in 2009 and almost half last year.

The existing planning system is allowing councils to place local worries over the appearance of turbines, for example, over national strategy to meet renewable energy targets, argues Jacqueline Harris, a partner at McGrigors.

“We are dealing with an increasing number of complaints and appeals from wind farm developers who are concerned that attitudes towards wind energy are hardening, particularly at a local level where they feel they do not get a balanced hearing,” she says.

“The visual impact of wind turbines is a common complaint and often successful grounds for objection. This applies even where only a very few properties will be affected, and the benefits of the development greatly outweigh the downsides to a small but vocal minority.”

Harris also confirms industry’s worries over the possible impact of the Localism Bill, which will give more power to local communities over planning decisions, potentially making it even more difficult for wind farms to secure planning permission.

“Local residents seldom look sympathetically on wind turbines close to their properties,” she says. “It’s likely that any extension of the power of local residents to influence the planning process will make getting planning permission in England and Wales for wind farms even harder.”

David Hunt, a director with renewable energy company Eco Environments, argued that “nimbys” (residents arguing “not in my back yard”) are a big part of the problem.

“As a soon as an application is put up for a turbine, regardless of its size, there seems to be some people that will just throw in every objection,” he said. “They will talk about visual impact, bats and birds, for example, and all these objections clog up the planning process and make council’s nervous about giving permission in sites where there should be no issue.”

News of the high rejections rates came just days after local authorities were accused of procrastinating over planning applications for small-scale wind turbines.

Hunt confirmed: “We have a number of customers whose applications for small-scale wind turbines are stuck in planning and we know of hundreds more across the UK in a similar position.”

“There’s definitely an attitude of burying heads in the sand when it comes to these applications because wind can be contentious. A lot of councils are dragging their feet because they want clear guidance from government and don’t want to be the first to make a decision.”

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