National Planning Policy Framework - How Does It Affect Energy Projects?

The Localism Act 2011 was regarded by many as a nimbys' charter with emphasis being placed on an increase in local participation, consultation and the creation of "neighbourhood plans" and "forums". Many in the energy sector have feared that this legislation and the "localism" concept will inevitably impact on getting planning permission for energy developments through the system.

The much awaited and debated National Planning Policy Framework has now been published. This scraps over 1,000 pages of Government planning policy guidance on a range of topics, including energy and renewables, replacing it with a 50+ page document. How is this going to affect energy development projects? During the consultation period for the Framework and the various drafts, many commentators claimed that the Framework would be a developer's charter. What will be the reality?

Over the preceding months there were many parties set on retaining the status quo in terms of preserving and promoting the countryside, heritage and Green Belt. They fought to have amendments made to the Framework. Some of those have been introduced in the final document.

Many pressure groups focused on the presumption in favour of sustainable development. All the excitement about the presumption is rather puzzling since in the reality, in many respects, the presumption has been in planning policy for many years. The publication by the Government of the Framework has identified the clear objective of assisting in kick starting development in the UK by placing the presumption at the heart of the planning process.

In terms of specific reference and guidance on energy in the Framework these are found in section 10 headed "Meeting the Challenge of Climate Change, Flooding and Coastal Change". More specifically paragraphs 93-98 encourage local planning authorities to support the move to low carbon energy and to encourage an increase in the use and supply of renewable and low carbon energy.

Local planning authorities are encouraged to provide positive strategies to promote such schemes. They are advised to design policies to maximise such developments and also to identify suitable areas for their location. Local planning authorities are to encourage and support community based energy initiatives.

The Framework stresses that local planning authorities should not require an energy developer to demonstrate an overall need for renewable energy and low carbon energy. Applications for such developments...

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