LOCAL PLANNING AND ONSHORE WIND – ERIC PICKLES LETTER TO COUNCILS

Below is the text of a letter that has been written to Councils by Eric Pickles. This is a big issue in the middle part of Sefton and the part of West Lancashire that wraps around Sefton Borough because of the proposal to build a large number of turbines of a similar height to Blackpool Tower! I have posted on this subject before and met campaigners opposing the Lower Alt Wind Farm proposal last Thursday at the Central Sefton Area Committee. I thought It would be useful to reproduce the whole of the letter on this site.

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I am writing to draw your attention to the written ministerial statement I made on 6 June
2013 on local planning and onshore wind. A copy of the statement is attached. This sets
out my intentions for planning practice guidance on onshore wind and compulsory preapplication
consultation for the more significant onshore wind applications.

As you know, wind farm proposals can be unwelcome to local communities and many are
being hard fought through the planning system. I appreciate the challenge for local
councils in reaching decisions which turn on whether a wind farm’s impact is acceptable in
planning terms when the local community is quite clear that it is not. We need to ensure
decisions do get the environmental balance right in line with the Framework and, as
expected by the Framework, any adverse impact from a wind farm development is
addressed satisfactorily. To address this concern, we intend to issue new planning
practice guidance as part of the work we have underway to take forward the Taylor review.

We have set out clearly in the National Planning Policy Framework the importance of early
and meaningful engagement with local communities. We will also amend secondary
legislation to make pre-application consultation with local communities compulsory for the
more significant onshore wind applications. This will ensure that community engagement
takes place at an earlier stage in more cases and may assist in improving the quality of
proposed onshore wind development. This will also complement the community benefits
proposals announced by the Department of Energy and Climate Change today.

I hope these reforms will give a greater say for local people and strengthen the role of
councils in shaping where development should and shouldn’t go.

I have also written to Sir Michael Pitt Chief Executive of the Planning Inspectorate asking
him to make planning inspectors aware of the statement.

RT HON ERIC PICKLES MP
The Rt Hon Eric Pickles MP
Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government
Department for Communities and Local Government
Eland House
Bressenden Place
London SW1E 5DU
7 June 2013

WRITTEN MINISTERIAL STATEMENT: LOCAL PLANNING AND ONSHORE WIND

The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Mr. Eric Pickles)
The Coalition Agreement pledged to decentralise power to local people and give local
people far more ability to shape the places in which they live.

Through a series of reforms, this Coalition Government is making the planning process
more accessible to local communities, because planning works best when communities
themselves have the opportunity to influence the decisions that affect their lives.
However, current planning decisions on onshore wind are not always reflecting a locallyled
planning system. Much of this stems from planning changes made by the last
Administration, which is why we introduced the National Planning Policy Framework and
abolished the last Government’s top-down Regional Strategies through the Localism Act.

Following a wide range of representations, including the letter of January 2012 to the
Prime Minister from one hundred Hon Members, and in light of the Department of Energy
and Climate Change’s Call for Evidence, it has become clear that action is needed to
deliver the balance expected by the National Planning Policy Framework on onshore wind.
We need to ensure that protecting the local environment is properly considered alongside
the broader issues of protecting the global environment.

Greater community consultation
We have set out clearly in the National Planning Policy Framework the importance of early
and meaningful engagement with local communities. The submissions to the Call for
Evidence have highlighted the benefits of good quality pre-application discussion for
onshore wind development and the improved outcomes it can have for local communities.
We will amend secondary legislation to make pre-application consultation with local
communities compulsory for the more significant onshore wind applications. This will
ensure that community engagement takes place at an earlier stage in more cases and
may assist in improving the quality of proposed onshore wind development.
This will also complement the community benefits proposals announced by the
Department of Energy and Climate Change today.

New planning practice guidance
The National Planning Policy Framework includes strong protections for the natural and
historic environment. Yet, some local communities have genuine concerns that when it
comes to wind farms insufficient weight is being given to environmental considerations like
landscape, heritage and local amenity. We need to ensure decisions do get the
environmental balance right in line with the Framework and, as expected by the
Framework, any adverse impact from a wind farm development is addressed satisfactorily.
We have been equally clear that this means facilitating sustainable development in
suitable locations. Meeting our energy goals should not be used to justify the wrong
development in the wrong location.

We are looking to local councils to include in their Local Plans policies which ensure that
adverse impacts from wind farms developments, including cumulative landscape and
visual impact, are addressed satisfactorily. Where councils have identified areas suitable
for onshore wind, they should not feel they have to give permission for speculative
applications outside those areas when they judge the impact to be unacceptable.
To help ensure planning decisions reflect the balance in the Framework, my Department
will issue new planning practice guidance shortly to assist local councils, and planning
inspectors in their consideration of local plans and individual planning applications. This
will set out clearly that:

the need for renewable energy does not automatically override environmental
protections and the planning concerns of local communities;

decisions should take into account the cumulative impact of wind turbines and
properly reflect the increasing impact on (a) the landscape and (b) local amenity as
the number of turbines in the area increases;

local topography should be a factor in assessing whether wind turbines have a
damaging impact on the landscape (i.e. recognise that the impact on predominantly
flat landscapes can be as great or greater than as on hilly or mountainous ones);
and

great care should be taken to ensure heritage assets are conserved in a manner
appropriate to their significance, including the impact of proposals on views
important to their setting.

I am writing to Sir Michael Pitt, Chief Executive of the Planning Inspectorate to ask him to
draw this statement to the attention of planning inspectors in their current and future
appeals. I will inform colleagues in local government to assist them in their forthcoming
decision-making.

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