New renewables planning guidance discourages buffer zones

Planners should not rule out renewable energy projects through inflexible rules on buffer zones, according to new planning guidance published today.

Wind: guidance published by DCLG
Wind: guidance published by DCLG

RTPI members: Register now to continue receiving Planning and access to PlanningResource FREE until the end of 2013

The document replaces PPS22 on renewable energy and follows a written ministerial statement by secretary of state Eric Pickles in June.

Buffer zones between wind turbines and home have become controversial in recent months as several councils have attempted to introduce them through supplementary planning documents. A High Court Judge ruled in April that a buffer zone proposed by Milton Keynes Borough Council was unlawful, but left the door open to other councils to introduce similar policies.

But the new guidance states: "Other than when dealing with set back distances for safety, distance of itself does not necessarily determine whether the impact of a proposal is unacceptable."

The document states that planners should identify areas suitable for renewable energy in plans to give greater certainty as to where development will be permitted. Where councils have identified areas suitable for onshore wind or large scale solar farms, they should not have to give permission outside those areas when they judge the impact to be unacceptable.

"The expectation should always be that an application should only be approved if the impact is (or can be made) acceptable", the guidance states.

Planners may give positive weight to renewable and low carbon energy projects which have local community involvement and leadership, it states.

In a written ministerial statement, parliamentary under secretary of state for communities and local government Baroness Hanham, said: "Our new planning practice guidance will help decisions on green energy get the environmental balance right in line with the framework.

"Meeting our energy goals should not be used to justify the wrong development in the wrong location," she said.

The Department for Communities and Local Government also published streamlined planning guidance on waste facilities. This brings waste planning policy into line with the National Planning Policy Framework, which means that waste facilities should only be approved in the green belt in "very special circumstances".

Planning practice guidance for renewable and low carbon energy is available here.

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Sign up now
Already registered?
Sign in

Join the conversation with PlanningResource on social media

Follow Us:
Planning Jobs