Several charities and activist groups have criticised the UK government’s onshore wind consultation for its failure in unlocking onshore wind projects across England.
A government consultation on how the planning system can support renewable energy developments in England ended this week.
The groups, led by climate charity Possible and including Greenpeace, WWF and Friends of the Earth, have expressed their concern and disappointment with the government’s proposed changes to the de facto ban on new onshore wind projects.
Instead of removing the planning blocks hindering the renewable generation technology, the government have instead made “minor changes” to the wording, the charities said. This will not allow the expansion of clean energy that is required to reduce energy bills and grant energy security and independence to the UK.
In November, Simon Clarke MP, the former Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, put forward an amendment to the Levelling Up Bill that would allow local planning authorities to approve onshore wind projects.
The amendment has gained significant support from other members of the Conservative party, including the likes of former Prime Ministers Liz Truss and Boris Johnson, as well as Alok Sharma, president of COP26.
Following this, the government confirmed it would relax its de facto ban on onshore wind which was first introduced in 2015. Under the system, no onshore wind farm development could go ahead unless the relevant local authority had drawn up a detailed local plan identifying all areas that would be suitable of onshore wind development.
According to RenewableUK, only 11% of local authorities had the time, resources or the inclination to do so. Also, if just one person objects to an onshore wind farm planning application it can be rejected by the local authority.
Under the proposed planning rules, local plans showing areas suitable for wind energy must still be drawn up and the wording on community consent remains so broad that one person could potentially still object to a project in order to stop it going ahead, said RenewableUK, one of the organisations responding to the consultation.
Campaigners are now calling for the government to end the uniquely restrictive planning system which applies to onshore wind, for there to be a taskforce and deployment roadmap for onshore wind, and to ensure all planning policy is aligned with the goal of tackling the climate crisis.
“While the government wastes time tweaking the wording of the virtual ban on onshore wind, households and communities across the UK continue to face unaffordable energy costs – and the escalating impacts of the climate crisis,” said Alethea Warrington, a campaigner at Possible.
“It’s past time to end the ridiculous planning system which makes it easier to open a new coal mine than get new onshore wind in England. The government should get on with the job of making the UK’s energy system clean, cheap and secure, and unblock wind.”