Leading planning charity, the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA) has welcomed the Energy and Climate Change Committee’s report today calling for greater Government support for local energy projects.
The report makes the case for businesses, cooperatives, local authorities, schools and housing associations to be given financial support to install medium-sized renewable energy generating systems - such as solar arrays, wind turbines and district heating systems - because of the benefits these projects can bring to communities and the country as a whole.
Diane Smith, TCPA European and Corporate Affairs Manager said:
“Local energy projects offer a fantastic way for communities to harness the economic benefits of renewable energy solutions, whilst also helping reduce carbon emissions as part of the nation’s wider energy mix.
We also welcome the report’s emphasis on the critical role that spatial planning has in the successful implementation of local energy projects and the need for clear guidance and certainty from Government at the national and local level. European projects, such as SPECIAL (Spatial Planning and Energy for Communities in All Landscapes), which focuses on building the capacity of professionals to plan for renewable energy at all scales, will be instrumental in delivering the step change in skills and culture necessary to support local communities in realising their ambitions.”
The committee’s report concludes that some form of support mechanism is needed alongside a comprehensive package of measures addressing finance, planning, grid access and advice. The report sets out a number of recommendations for Government, including:
• Doing more to encourage local authorities to identify suitable areas for renewable energy development as recommended in the National Planning Policy Framework.
• Encouraging local authorities to develop clear guidance about what is expected from local energy projects, to reduce uncertainty and risk in the planning process.
• National level planning guidance should be provided on technical issues that hold up planning consent for wind turbines and other low-carbon technologies. This would help to improve consistency between different local authorities and ensure that only genuinely local issues were addressed through the local consenting process.
• Government should encourage industry to offer a stake to local residents for all new developments or consider the option of making a community ownership offer mandatory for all new developments.
The TCPA will be running a series of European Knowledge Exchange seminars over the autumn that aim to help local authorities access European funding opportunities and share policy best practice on a range of topics.
The TCPA is lead partner for the pan-European planning and sustainable energy project, SPECIAL, which will help provide training and capacity building to local authorities across England. The SPECIAL Project is funded by Intelligent Energy Europe and will help up-skill councils in planning for low and zero carbon communities through providing free training for planning officers and elected members.