Labour government lifts de facto ban on new onshore wind farms

  • Two footnotes from the National Planning Policy Framework caused the ‘ban’
  • Changes effective as of 8 July before being confirmed to Parliament on 18 July
  • Part of new government’s plan to double onshore wind by 2030

The de facto ‘ban’ on new onshore wind farms has been lifted in England by the new Labour government, in a bid to meet the government’s commitment to double onshore wind energy by 2030. 

Two specific footnotes in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), which governs the building of homes and infrastructure, mean that the ban has been in place since 2015. 

Together, the footnotes stated that onshore wind development would only be considered acceptable if the following criteria were met:

  • In areas either allocated in a development plan or through Local Development Orders (LDO), Neighbourhood Development Orders (NDO) and Community Right to Build Orders (CRBO). 
  • With the narrow exception of proposals brought forward by LDO, NDO and CRBO’s, where the proposal has proved community support.

In practice, this has often been interpreted to mean that any opposition means the proposal cannot be considered acceptable. 

The removal of these footnotes are effective as of 8 July before being confirmed to Parliament on 18 July, following the State Opening.

The news means that all onshore wind applications will be treated in the same way as other energy development proposals, the government has confirmed. 

In a policy statement, officials said: “Delivering our clean power mission will help boost Britain’s energy independence, save money on energy bills, support high-skilled jobs and tackle the climate crisis. We are therefore committed to doubling onshore wind energy by 2030.

“That means immediately removing the de facto ban on onshore wind in England, in place since 2015. We are revising planning policy to place onshore wind on the same footing as other energy development in the NPPF. Through the update, the government will go further and set its proposals for wider changes to support renewable energy development.

“Alongside this, we will consult on bringing large onshore proposals into the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project regime, to support quick determination, followed by a revised National Policy Statement.

“Local communities will play an essential part in delivering this mission and we will empower them to participate in decisions on local infrastructure. Communities should rightly benefit from hosting local renewable energy infrastructure and that is why we will shortly publish an update to the Community Benefits Protocol for Onshore Wind England”. 

Additionally, new analysis by energy think tank, Ember, shows immediate action is needed to help deliver the UK’s targets on offshore wind. 

Ember claims that “in the upcoming AR6 auction taking place next month, only half the necessary offshore wind capacity is expected to be delivered unless there is immediate intervention, and that it can be avoided by increasing the AR6 budget by just 25%”. 

Boosting the budget could deliver an additional 1GW, according to Ember’s analysis, enough to keep targets in view if future auctions also see strong delivery.

Frankie Mayo, analyst, Ember, said: “Since the Contracts for Difference auction scheme is currently the main route to delivering offshore wind projects, the report highlights that the 2025 auction (AR7) should also be urgently reformed to support a much larger number of projects.

“This should be a no-brainer. A higher budget for this summer’s auction would immediately secure a real boost to the UK’s offshore industry, a straightforward win fora new government within three weeks of power.”

Without the budget increase, Ember claims the UK’s offshore wind targets of 50GW by 2030 will be at “serious risk”. 

The UK currently has 14.7GW of installed offshore wind capacity, with another 13.3GW in construction or committed through government support, meaning the country needs another 20GW by 2030. 

Mayo concludes: “In recent years, the UK has felt the impact on cost of living from reliance on a volatile global gas import. Ember’s analysis shows that growth in offshore wind would go a significant way to protecting against the volatility. 

“Every 1GW of offshore wind could displace gas consumption by enough to heat 630 million homes.”  

Written by:
Tamara Birch, senior writer, The Eco Experts
Tamara has written about environmental topics for more than four years. This includes advising small business owners on cost-effective ways, like solar panels and energy-efficient products to help them become more sustainable. 
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