New renewables planning guidance discourages “inflexible” buffer zones

Property consultant Carter Jonas has welcomed new planning guidelines that discourage the use of buffer zones in renewable energy projects.

The new government guidance bans councils from imposing “inflexible rules” on low carbon projects 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.

Emma Winter, senior planner at Carter Jonas in Harrogate, said the document clarifies existing policies, which will help with future renewable and low carbon energy planning proposals.

She said:

“It clearly identifies that councils should not impose buffer zones or separation distances in order to reject proposed wind farms or solar projects, other than for safety reasons, which effectively puts a stop to some councils’ recent efforts to impose buffer zones as a means of blocking developments.”

Buffer zones between wind turbines and homes have become controversial in recent months as several councils have attempted to introduce them in supplementary planning documents.

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.

Emma Winter compressed
Carter Jonas’s Emma Winter

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