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Renewable energy report before councillors

Proposals aimed at clarifying Fenland District Council’s approach to dealing with all aspects of renewable energy facilities will go before the council’s Cabinet today, Thursday (November 21).

They are designed to provide a clear, consistent and transparent local framework for decision-making on a range of issues that are often contentious.

Such a framework would be based on evidence and the latest planning decisions in the area.

In particular, the proposals would strengthen the council’s ability to give proper consideration to planning applications, including those for wind turbines, solar farms and biomass facilities. Without such a clear framework, national policies dictate that there is a “presumption in favour” of approval.

The proposals are set out in a new supplementary planning document (SPD) on renewable energy. They include explicit policies on matters such as visual impact, views, safety and cumulative impact.

The SPD would effectively replace the council’s 2009 Wind Turbine Guidance.

The need for greater clarity was demonstrated in the appeal decision regarding six turbines known as Treading Wind Farm near Tydd St Giles, according to the report going to Cabinet.

In turning down the appeal in October the Secretary of State upheld the council’s original decision to refuse permission for the wind farm. However, the document says that the appeal decision “highlighted the lack of local Fenland policy to determine such proposals (whether wind, solar or other form of renewable energy)”, which “could place a significant risk on the Council in the future”.

It adds: “Had this SPD been in place, the Council’s hand at defending this appeal would have been much stronger because explicit policies are contained within the SPD on matters such as visual impact, views, safety and cumulative impact.”

Without clear, locally specific policies, the Council will be at greater risk of unacceptable proposals being permitted, it says.

The document stresses that it is not just about wind turbines or the control and prevention of inappropriate development proposals.

It says: “Some renewable energy proposals should be welcomed because of the social and economic benefits they can bring, including jobs and business opportunities. This SPD will encourage appropriate schemes to come forward.”

It adds: “In the days of ever rising fuel bills, it is important we enable local residents and businesses to take advantage of fuel-saving measures, thus taking residents out of fuel poverty and creating local job opportunities. This will ensure more money circulates within Fenland, not out to the ‘big six’ (mostly foreign) energy companies.”

If approved by Cabinet, the document will go out to public consultation with the aim of being formally adopted by the council next year, in tandem with with the Core Strategy.