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Regional Planning and Development: Renewable Energy

Volume 481: debated on Tuesday 21 October 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (1) if she will assess the effect of the implementation of the Government's Green Belt policy and Planning Policy Guidance 2 on policies which aim to tackle climate change by promoting small-scale renewable energy projects such as domestic wind turbines; (228399)

(2) whether she plans to review the planning policy regulations as they apply to small-scale renewable energy projects in the green belt.

This summer's consultation on the Government's Renewable Energy Strategy (RES) has looked at how the UK is to achieve its share of the target that 20 per cent. of the EU's energy consumption must come from renewable sources by 2020. The RES explains that the substantial switch to renewables in the timescale required cannot be achieved without the right response from the planning system. National planning policies already expect regional and local planners to actively plan for and support renewable energy generation. The RES acknowledges however that it may not always be clear to local planning authorities, applicants and other users how elements of this framework come together in any given case. We have therefore said we will ensure our planning policies for renewable energy are updated quickly to reflect the new RES when in place next year.

Planning Policy Statement 22 on renewable energy already makes it clear that the very special circumstances required to justify the grant of planning permission for inappropriate development in a green belt may include the wider environmental benefits associated with increased production of energy from renewable sources. Planning authorities have also been advised not to reject planning applications simply because the level of output is small.

Separately, we are also freeing up from the need to apply for planning permission those small-scale renewable energy projects that can be supported as permitted development. In April 2008 amendments were made to the General Permitted Development Order which enable small-scale domestic microgeneration development including solar ground and water-source heat pumps, biomass heating and combined heat and power systems to proceed without the need for a specific planning application. Further amendments are planned for micro wind turbines and air source heat pumps once the issue of potential nuisance to neighbours from noise has been resolved. We are also considering the scope for extending permitted development rights to non-domestic small-scale renewables.