Tuesday 5 September 2023
Levelling Up, Housing and Communities
I am today setting out updated policy on planning for onshore wind development in England.
In December last year the Government consulted on a number of proposed changes to the national planning policy framework, including changes relating to onshore wind development in England. That consultation concluded on 2 March this year and we received over 26,000 responses which my Department is carefully considering.
Through this consultation the Government have heard the strength of feeling and range of views on onshore wind. My right hon. Friend the Energy Security and Net Zero Secretary and I continue to believe that decisions on onshore wind are best made by local representatives who know their areas. This will ensure decisions are underpinned by democratic accountability. We agree following our consultation, however, that we need to strike the right balance to ensure that local authorities can respond more flexibly to suitable opportunities for onshore wind energy, contributing to electricity bill savings and increasing our energy security as well as respecting the views of their local communities.
Having considered the responses carefully, I am confirming our intention to proceed with changes to national planning policy for onshore wind which take forward the proposals which were consulted upon, with minor changes to reflect responses and provide clarity on how policy should be applied in practice.
This includes amending the planning tests for proposed onshore wind developments to make clear that suitable locations can be identified in a number of ways, rather than solely through an area’s development plan. Development plans can take a number of years to be produced and adopted and we want to be clear that other, more agile and targeted routes are appropriate: for example, through local development orders, neighbourhood development orders and community right to build orders. We hope that this will mean sites are identified more quickly, speeding up the process of allocating sites for onshore wind projects, and ultimately, as a consequence, more clean and renewable energy is generated sooner.
We are also adjusting the policy so that local authorities can more flexibly address the planning impact of onshore wind projects as identified by local communities, on which we intend to publish further guidance. We have heard accounts that current policy has been applied in such a way that a very limited number of objections, and even at times objections of single individuals, have been taken as showing a lack of community backing. This is not the policy intent, and as a result of today's policy change it will now be important that local decision makers are able to take a more balanced approach, considering the views of communities as a whole. The Government are also open to novel ways to demonstrate community consent, building on best practice and using new digital engagement techniques.
We are also clear that local areas that support hosting onshore wind should directly benefit. That is why we have consulted on proposals for improved rewards and benefits to be offered to communities backing onshore wind farms, including potential energy bill discounts. The Government will respond to this consultation in the autumn.
I can also confirm that we are taking forward changes in relation to the repowering and life extensions of existing renewable energy sites to make clearer the circumstances in which these may be approved.
I would like to extend my sincere gratitude to all those who participated in the consultation. Our formal response to the other wider proposals in the consultation will also be published later this autumn.
An updated national planning policy framework will be published today and policy changes, relevant to planning decisions, take effect immediately upon publication; some transitional arrangements for plan making are set out at annex 1. The amendments are to chapter 14 of the national planning policy framework. Relevant extracts can be viewed online at: http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-statement/Commons/2023-09-05/HCWS1005/
I have been asked by my right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State to make this written ministerial statement. This statement confirms that it has been necessary to extend the deadline for the decision for the A1 in Northumberland—Morpeth to Ellingham development consent order under the Planning Act 2008.
Under section 107(1) of the Planning Act 2008, the Secretary of State must make his decision within three months of receipt of the examining authority’s report unless exercising the power under section 107(3) to extend the deadline and make a statement to the House of Parliament announcing the new deadline.
The Secretary of State received the examining authority’s report on the A1 in Northumberland—Morpeth to Ellingham development consent order application on 5 October 2021. The current deadline for a decision is 5 September 2023, having been last been extended from 5 December 2022 by way of written ministerial statement of 6 December 2022.
The deadline for the decision is to be further extended to 5 June 2024—an extension of nine months.
In addition to the reason for the extension set out in the written ministerial statement on 6 December 2022, the extension will allow further time to consider any matters relevant to the application.
The decision to set a new deadline is without prejudice to the decision on whether to give development consent for the above application.