A North East planning expert has said the Government’s new energy strategy is a missed opportunity to develop the type of small onshore wind turbines needed to tackle the climate emergency.

Commenting on ministers’ plans to generate cleaner and more affordable energy and how planned development will meet the energy efficiency standards set by local planning authorities, Joe Ridgeon, a director at Hedley Planning Services, says the focus on nuclear does not help to meet the short-term energy needs.

He says: “The Government needed to be braver and bolder because onshore wind could have been the quick win needed here.  It isn’t the change in the onshore wind planning system that many were hoping for to help meet our energy needs for generations to come.

“More onshore wind turbines would contribute significantly to a virtually zero-carbon economy with ambitions for achieving net zero. This would see the UK no longer adding to the total amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

“Investment in these technologies would create jobs and opportunity across the region’s burgeoning renewable energy sector as new investment comes forward and individual homeowners, landowners and businesses look to secure their own future energy needs with wind turbine schemes.”

Current National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) policy in England states that new onshore wind turbines cannot receive planning permission unless an area is identified as suitable for wind energy in a local or neighbourhood plan. In addition, following consultation, it needs to be demonstrated that the planning impacts identified by the affected local community have been fully addressed.

Given the vocal minority, which are against wind turbine development, these restrictions can stop developments regardless of whether or not the site is suitable for wind turbines.

A simple adjustment to introduce a presumption that would unlock a huge opportunity for more development of small-scale wind turbine projects is all that’s needed, says Joe Ridgeon. In turn, this could power growth in a host of ‘exciting’ renewable energy schemes across the North East.

“The UK government has unveiled its plans but they’re disappointing,” says Joe Ridgeon. “Surely the time has come for a radical rethink. Every farm and business – indeed, any individual with an appropriate site – would be able to erect a wind turbine, without the worry that planning is going to be the biggest risk to investment.

“The opportunity to develop partnerships with only a limited number of supportive communities who wish to host new onshore wind infrastructure does not go far enough, and the link to a guarantee for lower energy bills indicates that this is clearly in relation to large scale wind farms.”

He adds that with soaring electricity and gas costs, there’s even more reason to urgently rethink current policies towards energy generation, if we are to create renewed interest in the advantages wind turbines offer.

“Differentiating small wind turbines from larger onshore wind farms and understanding the benefits and low visual impact they bring, could be hugely significant. Moreover, farms and rural landowners would be able to return energy control to UK businesses, helping them to become more competitive on the back of a reduced carbon footprint and improved UK energy security.

“A boost for renewable energy projects can provide enough power to effectively power thousands of homes and reduce our carbon footprint. Indeed, we have secured permission for schemes in Northumberland that provide a blueprint for bringing forward other similar projects across the country that deliver and help to tackle the climate emergency,” he added.

“There’s no doubt in my view that harnessing the wind is an efficient way to supply clean energy and contribute significantly towards the renewable energy solutions we will increasingly look towards if we want the type of greener future we all desire.”