Renewable planning guidance discourages 'inflexible' buffer zones
Date of Article
Aug 15 2013

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15 August 2013, Energy experts at Carter Jonas in Peterborough have welcomed new planning guidelines that discourage the use of ‘buffer zones’ in renewable energy projects.

Buffer zones between wind turbines and homes have become controversial in recent months as several local authorities across the country have attempted to introduce them in supplementary planning documents.

The new government guidance,  which was published last week (29 July), bans local authorities imposing “inflexible rules” on low carbon projects –  ‘rules’ such as setting minimum distances between wind turbines and properties.

Planners are also advised not to rule out renewable energy projects over proximity to dwellings, in the document released by Communities Secretary Eric Pickles.

Claire Allsop, a Carter Jonas associate who works for the Energy & Marine team which has its headquarters in the firm’s Peterborough office, said that the document clarifies existing policies, which will help with future renewable and low carbon energy planning proposals.

She explains “It clearly identifies that local councils should not impose buffer zones or separation distances in order to reject proposed wind farms or solar projects, other than for safety reasons. This, effectively, puts a stop to some councils’ recent efforts to impose buffer zones as a means of blocking developments.”
A High Court Judge ruled in April that a buffer zone proposed by Milton Keynes Borough Council was unlawful, but left the door open to other councils to introduce similar policies.

The ‘Planning Practice Guidance for Renewable and Low Carbon Energy’ document was released by the Department for Communities and Local Government.

It replaces the ‘Planning for Renewable Energy: A Companion Guide to PPS22’ document.

The document highlights the importance of generating energy from renewable and low carbon technologies as a way to ensure the UK has a secure energy supply, as well as reducing greenhouse gas emissions to slow down climate change, and stimulating investment in new jobs and businesses.

It states: "Local planning authorities should not rule out otherwise acceptable renewable energy developments through inflexible rules on buffer zones or separation distances.
“Other than when dealing with ‘set back’ distances for safety, distance of itself does not necessarily determine whether the impact of a proposal is unacceptable.”

The reforms stress that issues such as topography, local environment and near-by land users were just as important as matters of distance.

The document advises planners should identify areas suitable for renewable to increase clarity over where development will be permitted.

Positive weight should be given to renewable and low carbon energy projects which have local community involvement and leadership, it states.