This year has seen a significant push for planning reform in the renewables sector. In January, I provided evidence at an Environmental Audit Committee inquiry, examining how the planning system for renewables could be improved. Following that, in March, I spoke at a Parliamentary Renewable and Sustainable Energy Group meeting on the planning system and community benefits. 

At the same time, at Regen we have been developing our work on planning. In February we brought together more than 60 industry experts to explore the key challenges and opportunities facing the planning system for renewables. Building on this event, we conducted deeper research, analysing UK government planning data and consulting with both developers and planning authorities about the challenges they encounter in planning for renewables and storage. 

This comprehensive information has been synthesised into our new paper, Local Planning for Renewables: Five key policy challenges. This outlines the critical challenges and proposes potential policy solutions to enhance the planning system for clean energy projects. These are as follows: 

  1. A lack of priority for renewables within the National Planning Policy Framework and local plans. We’re calling for the National Planning Policy Framework to be updated to prioritise net zero and renewable energy.
  2. Under resourcing and high staff turnover at local authorities. We’re calling for measures that improve the roles of local authority planners to address resourcing challenges.
  3. A lack of clarity on when planning permission should be refused due to the character of the area. We’re calling for the NPPF to be updated to provide greater clarity on ensuring a balance between landscape protection and the need to address climate change.
  4. The total stalling of onshore wind deployment. We’re calling for the restrictions on onshore wind to be removed urgently so that onshore wind is treated in the same way as other infrastructure.
  5. Insufficient engagement with local communities on clean energy projects. We’re calling for the publication of best practice guidance on community engagement and benefits for all onshore renewables and take forward the findings of the 2015 Shared Ownership Taskforce.

We urge the future government to adopt these recommendations to ensure that the planning system for renewables and storage projects no longer impedes project development, while at the same time ensuring that communities remain at the heart of these projects and decisions. 

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