Industry experts have blasted the UK government's move to ease an effective ban on onshore wind farms as not going far enough, saying the changes still leave a planning system “stacked against” developers.
The UK government announced today (Tuesday) that it has “streamlined planning rules” for new onshore wind farms and removed a rule whereby an objection from even one local resident could stop a project in its tracks.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak had his hand forced on the issue amid a rebellion in his own party that could have dealt him an embarrassing defeat in UK Parliament, which is currently debating a major energy bill.
However James Robottom, head of onshore wind at RenewableUK, said the proposed changes “don’t go far enough.”
“We will still face a planning system stacked against onshore wind that treats it differently to every other energy source or infrastructure project. A lot will be open to interpretation and there are still hurdles to navigate which remain in place.”
“There has been a slight softening at the edges but nothing more,” he said. “As a result, we’re not going to see investment into new onshore wind at the scale needed to rapidly cut bills and boost energy security.”
“This is a missed opportunity to reinvigorate onshore wind in England after eight years of lost progress,” he added.
Friends of the Earth planning specialist Magnus Gallie agreed that the changes “fall far short of what’s needed to fully unleash the UK’s enormous potential for cheap, clean and popular onshore wind power.
“It’s ridiculous that onshore wind developments still face more planning barriers, both before and after applications are submitted, than fossil fuel energy projects.”
Jess Ralston, energy analyst at the UK-based Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, tells Recharge that “the devil will be in the detail, for example how you define local consent and how you can prove it.”
“However, removing the ability for one NIMBY objector to stop an entire windfarm - which would help lower bills and improve energy security - looks to be a step forwards, but much will hinge on the wording of the new planning rules.”
Greenpeace UK’s policy director, Doug Parr, said “developers will continue to face uncertainty over planning process and be beholden to quixotic decisions by local councils. Who will put their money into developing projects under those circumstances?”
Ed Miliband, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State of Climate Change and Net Zero, said on X, formerly Twitter, that the ruling Conservative party has “bottled it AGAIN on onshore wind.”
“It still remains easier to build an incinerator or a landfill site than onshore wind,” he said. “The planning system remains stacked against onshore wind. This will mean higher bills and energy insecurity for Britain.”
Major renewables developers have declined to go on the record to Recharge but have privately expressed concern that the changes announced do not go far enough.