Posted: 25 April, 2012. Written by REA News
Renewable Energy Association
25th April 2012
The REA  welcomes the Planning and Climate Change Coalition’s  report ‘Planning for Climate Change – Guidance for Local Authorities’ 
Translating the National Planning Policy Framework  into practical development plans and planning decisions will not be without its challenges. REA Chief Executive Gaynor Hartnell comments:
“Local authorities have a key role in facilitating the UK meeting its challenging and legally binding renewables target. By 2020 we need to increase renewable energy penetration from today’s level of 3% up to 15% . We urge planning authorities to make sure their development plans contain robust policies to assist with this. There can be no better example of sustainable growth than the deployment of renewables in sympathy with the local environment.
“The NPPF also requires local authorities to identify “suitable areas” for renewable energy deployment [6, 7, 8]. We are not convinced that a mapping approach is helpful for all technologies, although it could well demonstrate the opportunities for deep geothermal and larger scale PV [9, 10, 11]. It can certainly also help with strategic planning to meet industrial heat demand. We will be happy to advise local authorities on how they might approach resource mapping”.
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Notes to Editors
1. The Renewable Energy Association represents renewable energy producers and promotes the use of all forms of renewable energy in the UK across power, heat, transport and renewable gas. It is the largest renewable trade association in the UK, with 960 members, ranging from major multinationals to sole traders. For more information, see: www.r-e-a.net
2. The REA is a member of the Planning and Climate Change Coalition (PCCC) and supports its goal of providing clear guidance to planning authorities on how to translate the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) into practical development plan policies and planning decisions. For more information on the Coalition, visit: http://www.tcpa.org.uk/pages/climate-coalition.html
3. The PCCC launched the report at 11:00 this morning in the Houses of Parliament, with Bob Neill MP, Parliamentary Undersecretary of State, CLG, Joan Walley MP, Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, and Heidi Alexander MP.
4. The NPPF was published by the DCLG on 27 March 2012, following a controversial consultation launched in July 2011. View the document online here: http://www.communities.gov.uk/planningandbuilding/planningsystem/planningpolicy/planningpolicyframework/
5. In 2008 the UK agreed to achieve 15% of our national energy consumption from renewable energy by 2020, from a starting point of just 1.3% in 2005. Enshrined within an EU directive, this legally binding target represents a very significant challenge that can only be achieved if a concerted and co-operative effort is made at all levels. The latest statistics indicate that renewables currently contribute just 3% of consumption, so we now have only eight years to achieve the fivefold increase required. The REA supports the role of this report in facilitating the achievement of both our renewables target, and the target of reducing our greenhouse gas emissions 80% by 2050.
6. Renewable energy sources are generally highly dispersed and, wherever possible, used close to where they arise. It is logical that we should make as much use as possible of those renewable resources that arise close to where we live. Creating a supportive local planning framework is therefore crucial to their success. Our challenge in the coming years is to integrate renewables into our local environment at a cost that is acceptable – acceptable financially, environmentally and socially. The REA firmly believes that, with a constructive approach from all sides, this can be achieved and will have multiple and significant benefits for the economy, people and the quality of our environment.
7. We are concerned that the abolition of regional spatial strategies removes an important mechanism for the UK’s national renewables target to be devolved to a regional level, which to date has provided a clear strategic context for local development plans. This makes it more difficult for those developing local plans to relate to the national target and for Government to ensure that local plan policies make sufficient allowance for the national target to be achieved. We do not believe that the NPPF’s 'duty to cooperate' will provide a sufficient impetus for the level of cooperation between neighbouring authorities required to achieve a more strategic, regional approach for renewable energy deployment.
8. The REA is concerned that the NPPF requires local authorities to identify “suitable areas” for renewable energy deployment (Paragraph 97). Although identifying broad areas of search can be helpful in principle, in practice it can easily become an attempt to restrict deployment to an overly-confined area. Furthermore, opportunity mapping has very limited relevance for most renewable energy technologies and a requirement to map is likely to delay deployment and restrict the development of perfectly acceptable locations. As the REA has long argued, it is far preferable for local plans to establish clear criteria-based policies. Once these are in place, renewable energy developers are in the best position to determine the location of projects within the context of the plan and can engage in constructive pre-application dialogue with the planning authorities to review proposed locations.
9. We are concerned at the loss of detailed, clear and helpful guidance contained within PPS 22 (Renewable Energy) and PPS 1 (Delivering Sustainable Development). For example the statement in PPS 22 that “planning authorities may include policies in local development documents that require a percentage of the energy to be used in new residential, commercial or industrial developments to come from on-site renewable energy developments” provides an important encouragement to local authorities to promote the uptake of small-scale renewables in the built environment and by local business. Such regulatory incentives form an important complement to the financial incentives provided by government. We urge the Government to retain as supplementary guidance as much as possible of the information in PPS 22 (and its useful companion guide) and PPS 1.
10. We believe that the NPPF’s treatment of renewable energy deployment within the Green Belt is too restrictive; the aim of Green Belt policy is to prevent urban sprawl and there will be many instances where renewables can be deployed without compromising this aim.
11. The REA acknowledges that the localism agenda and provisions within the Localism Act may provide opportunities for supporting renewable energy deployment but is equally concerned that the powers could be used by a vocal minority to restrict deployment that is fully in line with national goals and targets. We hope that this will be closely monitored by Government and appropriate action taken if the achievement of our 2020 renewables target becomes under threat.
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