Planners urged to boost renewables

Planners must give "significant weight" to the wider environmental benefits of green energy projects, according to draft guidance on renewable energy published this week.

The draft planning policy statement (PPS22), which calls for local and regional policies to "promote and encourage rather than restrict" renewables development, has been welcomed by both green energy campaigners and conservationists.

Launching PPS22, junior planning minister Yvette Cooper said councils should look at long-term environmental considerations as well as the immediate impact on the local area when assessing green power schemes.

"In the past some local authorities have ruled out almost any development of this sort. We want to see a more considered approach, so the planning system is used positively rather than negatively," said Cooper.

Under the draft guidance, strict conditions must be satisfied before renewable energy developments can be permitted in areas of important landscape and environmental sensitivity. Siting, layout, landscape and design will all need to be considered along with the cumulative impact of a number of turbines.

Development in nationally and internationally designated sites will be restricted where landscape criteria are not met. But planners can allow development in these areas if the wider environmental, social and economic benefits outweigh any adverse effect, says the draft.

The proposals are intended to help the UK meet the government's target of generating ten per cent of UK energy from renewable sources by 2010.

The document was welcomed by conservation groups. The Campaign to Protect Rural England's natural resources campaigner Jill Hatcher praised the guidance for its case-by-case, criteria-based approach.

But Royal Society for the Protection of Birds head of planning Mark Southgate warned: "The guidance must make it clear that local economic benefits do not outweigh important wildlife and landscape considerations."

Consultation Paper on Draft PPS22: Renewable Energy is available free from the ODPM (tel) 0870 1226 236.

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