Wind farm community benefits 'are not a material consideration', guidance says

Community benefits offered for wind turbine developments should not be relevant to decisions as to whether planning applications for wind farms are approved or not, new government guidance has said.

Wind power: government wants communities to benefit
Wind power: government wants communities to benefit

The guidance, published by the Department for Energy and Climate Change, states that community benefits are not material considerations and should not be taken into account by local planning authorities.

Also, developers should make it clear to all parties that engagement in community benefit discussions "does not affect their right to have a view on the development through the planning process".

Two documents, one on community benefits and one on engagement, provide guidance on the preparation, planning and post-planning consent phases of development.

The documents set out best practice for wind farm developers and relate to all onshore wind developments in England, including those greater than 50MW deemed Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects.

The guidance says that community benefits are "separate from the planning process and are not relevant to the decision as to whether the planning application for a wind farm should be approved or not."

Material and socio-economic benefits are not covered by the guidance, which it says would be considerations covered as part of a planning application.

While community benefits should not be relevant to the planning decision, the guidance does set out some situations in which they would be considered, such as the Localism Act's allowace for planning authorities to take financial benefits into account when there is a direct connection between the intended use of the funds and the development.

Also, the government's Planning Practice Guidance states that local authorities can establish policies to give weight to renewable energy initiatives "which have clear evidence of local community involvement and leadership".

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