UK Government Lifts De Facto Ban on Onshore Wind Farms in England
Posted 06/09/2023 14:22
The UK's Conservative government has taken steps to relax planning rules and lift restrictions that have effectively prevented the construction of new onshore wind farms in England. The rules, introduced in 2015 under the administration of then-Prime Minister David Cameron, permitted a single objection to a wind turbine application to halt its development. Consequently, this led to a significant reduction in the number of new turbines receiving planning permission.
Pressure from some Conservatives prompted the current government to overturn these rules. Lawmaker Alok Sharma, who served as president of the 2021 U.N. climate change conference and led the lobbying campaign, described the regulations as "outdated" and "an impractical way for a planning system to operate."
Authorities have stated that the eased restrictions will expedite the approval of onshore wind projects that have local residents' support. Elected local officials will now have the authority to make final decisions based on the prevailing view of their communities, rather than allowing a small number of objectors to block developments.
Officials also indicated that communities favoring wind turbines in their areas would benefit from reduced electricity costs, with details about how these energy discounts will function to be considered at a later time.
However, environmental groups have criticized Tuesday's decision, deeming it overly cautious and contending that too many obstacles to onshore wind turbine construction in England still exist. Greenpeace characterized the changes as "insufficient adjustments" and "more empty rhetoric from the government."
Alethea Warrington, senior campaigner at climate advocacy group Possible, remarked, "Today’s minor progress leaves new onshore wind projects in England still encountering greater planning barriers than other initiatives, including the establishment of new coal mines. It will remain challenging for communities that desire wind energy to obtain it."
Renewable energy accounted for 42% of the UK's electricity generation last year, with much of it originating from offshore wind farms. Experts have emphasized the urgent need to rapidly expand onshore wind energy production if the UK is to achieve its climate change objectives.
The UK government has committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 68% by 2030, eventually reaching net-zero emissions by 2050—meaning the country will release only as much greenhouse gas as can be absorbed through natural or technological means.