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Eric Pickles: local views trump renewable energy needs

Local objections will hold greater weight than national energy needs when it comes to planning consent for wind turbines and solar farms, government said on Monday.

The Department for Communities and Local Government issued new guidance saying the need for renewable energy “does not automatically override” environmental protections and local concerns. It replaces rules drawn up by the previous government that took a more positive tone towards renewables.

However, it said local authorities “should not rule out otherwise acceptable renewable developments through inflexible rules on buffer zones or separation distances”.

Local government secretary Eric Pickles said: “The views of local people must be listened to when making planning decisions. Meeting Britain’s energy needs should not be used to justify the wrong development in the wrong location.”

Trade body Renewable UK welcomed the decision not to promote “buffer zones”. Deputy chief executive Maf Smith said: “Government clearly agrees with industry view that each site is different so needs to be looked at on its own merits, not through blanket arbitrary criteria.”

The new planning guidance is the latest move by government purporting to strengthen communities’ say on renewables projects.

It follows the introduction of rules requiring developers to offer host communities benefits of £5,000/MW/year, up from £1,000/MW/year.

Smith added: “Following a long debate about onshore wind costs and benefits, we trust that this period of uncertainty for the industry is now at an end, and that we will see planning policy and guidance producing robust, objective planning decisions.”