National planning policy limiting creation of new onshore wind farms in England, research finds

Issue date: 14 March 2022


As attention continues to grow on the role that renewable energy plays in improving our energy security, new research from UWE Bristol has revealed the impact of current policy on restricting onshore wind farm development in England. The combined impact of a removal of financial subsidies and policy change has led to a 97% decrease in the number of wind turbines that have been granted planning permission in the period 2016-2021 compared to the period 2009-2014. While financial subsidies have now returned, experts believe there is a need to address the planning policy.

Research by Dr Rebecca Windemer, Lecturer in Environmental Planning at UWE Bristol, explored the impact of the 2015 policy change for onshore wind farms in England. Currently, new wind farms can only be granted planning permission if they meet two strict criteria. Firstly, the turbine(s) must be located in an area that has been identified as suitable for wind energy in a local or neighbourhood plan. Secondly, it must also be demonstrated that ‘the planning impacts identified by the affected local community have been fully addressed and the proposal has their backing’.

The research shows that since the policy was introduced in 2015 only 11% of local authorities have allocated areas for onshore wind farms. Reasons for this include resource constraints, perceived challenges of doing so, landscape or greenbelt designations, issues surrounding community support or a lack of potential for wind energy. Local authorities have also struggled to assess the community backing requirement, the research found.

There is an appetite for policy change amongst many local planning authorities, the research found. For example, one local authority noted that, “National policy needs to be urgently amended to reflect the Climate Emergency and the need to significantly increase renewable energy production from all sources, including onshore wind.”

Dr Windemer, a member of UWE Bristol’s Centre for Sustainable Planning and Environments, said: “The current national planning policy is creating a barrier to the development of new onshore wind farms in England, as they won’t be considered acceptable in 89% of local authorities. There is an evident need for policy change, but in doing so we should also consider how local communities can benefit.”

A summary of the key research findings is available here.

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