Communities to be put in the driving seat on onshore wind turbine decisions

Truro and Falmouth MP Sarah Newton has welcomed a range of new measures intended to overhaul the treatment of wind turbines within the planning system, enabling communities to have a greater say on new turbine applications.

Since her election Sarah has worked with a number of Conservative colleagues to highlight to Ministers the very real concerns many people have about inappropriate onshore wind turbine developments.

During a recent visit to Cornwall Energy Minister Greg Barker MP confirmed that a package of reforms was being prepared in order to address these concerns. These reforms have now been announced, and include:

• New planning guidance emphasising that the need for renewable energy does not automatically override environmental protections and the planning concerns of local communities. The new guidance will also give greater weight to landscape and visual impact concerns.

• Pre-application consultations with local communities will be made compulsory, and the quality of community engagement monitored by DECC.

• Community Benefit Protocol will be revised by the end of the year, to ensure that communities hosting onshore turbines receive increased financial benefits. Under the new protocol communities agreeing a medium-sized 20MW wind farm could therefore receive a package of benefits worth £100,000 per year, or up to £400 a year off each household’s annual bill.

• A new Community Energy Strategy will be published to set out how Government can encourage community ownership and investment in wind projects.

Welcoming these reforms Sarah Newton commented:

‘‘I am pleased that Minsters have listened to the concerns colleagues and I have raised regarding the impact on-shore wind turbines can have on local communities. The package of measures now announced will help ensure that local residents are an integral part of any turbine planning process, and that any concerns they raise regarding the visual impact of turbines will be given the serious consideration they deserve.’’

‘‘These reforms are not just good news for local communities- closer community engagement can only be a good thing for the many local renewable energy firms that I know are keen to work with local residents to secure a greener future for Cornwall. I look forward to continuing to work with Ministers, local residents and local companies to ensure that these reforms have the desired effect on the ground.’’