The Government’s publication of new planning guidance on renewable energy underplays both the global environmental imperative of low carbon technology and the local economic and social benefits of community-led renewable energy projects. The new guidance talks in detail about local environmental impacts which remain important planning considerations. However, it does not balance these issues with the medium and long term impacts of climate change which will do irreparable damage to our most valued landscapes and ecosystems. Renewable energy, along with energy efficiency measures, remains the best way to tackle rising carbon emissions.
There are also important questions about how local plans will contribute to the commitments in the Climate Change Act and European Renewable Energy Directive. The lessons from pan-European projects such as SPECIAL (Spatial Planning and Energy for Communities in All Landscapes) is that Governments need to provide clear pathways, including targets and benchmarks to encourage local authorities to deliver real action. The guidance does provide some encouragement for community-led developments but much greater support and political leadership is needed if we are to meet our climate change obligations.
Hugh Ellis, TCPA Chief Planner said:
“Developing positive renewable energy solutions is vital to the social and economic wellbeing of our society. The impacts of climate change are already having a major impact on communities and will intensify over the coming years, doing irreversible damage to some of our most valued ecosystems and landscapes - as well as damage to the infrastructure and social fabric of our towns and cities. While local communities must be at the heart of planning process, it is critical that long term social, economic and environmental costs and benefits are considered together to mitigate the impacts of climate change and secure our collective future.”