Renewable Energy Core Strategy June 2016
The Northumberland & Newcastle Society has been heavily involved with the development of the Core Strategy document since 2012. We have raised considerable funds to develop expert submissions to the County Council.
The Society, with the CPRE, has now prepared an expert submission regarding certain aspects of NCC’s proposed Major Modifications to the Core Strategy Pre-Submission Draft.
Once adopted, the CS will guide planning decisions for many years to come.
Three extra documents are accessible for your information at the bottom of this report under Resources.
Proposed modifications to Northumberland’s emerging Core Strategy intending the identification of ‘suitable areas for wind turbine development’.
Briefing paper from the Northumberland & Newcastle Society and the Campaign to Protect Rural England, June 2016.
In House of Commons Written Statement HCWS40, on 18th June 2015, the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change (Amber Rudd) said:
We now have enough onshore wind in the pipeline, to be subsidised by bill payers through the Renewable Obligation or Contracts for Difference, for onshore wind to play a significant part in meeting our renewable energy commitments. The Government was elected with a commitment to end new subsidies for onshore wind and to change the law so that local people have the final say on onshore windfarm applications”. She continued: “My Rt Hon Friend the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government is today making a statement on onshore wind development and local planning in England. This will set out new considerations to be applied to proposed wind energy development so that local people have the final say on wind farm applications. emphasis added 1
Accordingly, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Greg Clark) issued his contemporaneous Written Statement HCWS42 confirming:
When determining planning applications for wind energy development involving one or more wind turbines, local planning authorities should only grant planning permission if:
· the development site is in an area identified as suitable for wind energy development in a Local or Neighbourhood Plan; and
· following consultation, it can be demonstrated that the planning impacts identified by affected local communities have been fully addressed and therefore the proposal has their backing.
In applying these new considerations, suitable areas for wind energy development will need to have been allocated clearly in a Local or Neighbourhood Plan. Maps showing the wind resource as favourable to wind turbines, or similar, will not be sufficient. Whether a proposal has the backing of the affected local community is a planning judgement for the local planning authority. emphasis added. 2
Prior to these Written Statements, NCC had decided to adopt a criteria-based approach in the Core Strategy, abandoning the problematic ‘W areas’ in the former Regional Spatial Strategy (RSS). These caused serious problems for local communities and planners, acting as honeypots for turbine developers and placing local communities under years of development stress.
NCC now proposes to further modify the draft Core Strategy 3. In doing so, it has apparently already decided, itself, “to seek to identify suitable areas for wind energy development in order to ‘have a positive strategy to promote energy from renewable and low carbon sources’ as required by the NPPF“. It is therefore clear that despite accepting, firstly, that there is no legal duty for it do so and, secondly, that the exercise could properly be left to the communities likely to be affected by such development through Neighbourhood Plans 4, NCC believes the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) “requires” NCC to have a “positive strategy to promote...” the development of wind turbines as a “renewable and low carbon source”.
We believe that approach to be flawed because:
1. It represents a misreading of the NPPF as illuminated by the changes made to National Planning Policy Guidance expressly to reflect the Ministerial Statements;
2. NCC fails to appreciate the distinction the Ministerial Statements have made, in the application of the NPPF and for other purposes, between wind power and other sources of renewable energy;
3. It is based on a misunderstanding and/or misapplication of government policy, failing, as it does, to embrace the Government’s intended spirit of “localism” or to take properly into account Northumberland’s past problems associated with the identification of the former “W” Areas (or “Areas of Least Constraint”); and
4. It can only have been formulated without taking into account a number of other material factors, not least the difficulties involved in a county-wide identification exercise and, at a time of austerity, the substantial costs entailed.
On the issue of ‘localism’: by itself insisting on identifying suitable areas, NCC will detract from the ability of local communities to decide how they wish to identify and develop the very “community led initiatives” which NCC uses to justify their proposed major alteration to Policy 65, Renewable and low carbon energy (Paragraph 11.80C). 4
Why should NCC consultants, as distinct from those local communities likely to be affected by wind turbine development, decide whether an area is, or is not, suitable for such development?
Other local planning authorities appear to agree with the Society. If NCC persists in this approach, Northumberland is likely to be out of line with other planning authorities exposed to wind development pressure which are developing local plans.
North Devon and Torridge Councils, in formulating a joint local plan in the wake of the Ministerial Statements, have both now voted against the sort of capacity study and the consequent “identification of suitable areas” proposed by NCC. 5
Torridge District Council’s lead member for planning, Councillor Peter Watson, is quoted as saying: "A clear majority of consultees objected to the principle of identifying areas suitable for wind energy in northern Devon. At the same time, central government, through further guidance, indicated that such an approach was no longer necessary.” 6
Neither does South Cambridgeshire intend to seek to “identify suitable areas”. In proposed modifications to its Local Plan (March 2016) it states: “The Council has not identified areas as suitable for wind energy development in the Local Plan; however areas could be identified in Neighbourhood Plans made during the plan period.” 7
In the Society’s view:
· The intention to identify new ‘suitable areas’ goes against the spirit and letter of government guidance on devolving decisions to local communities. If communities wish to identify areas for community renewables projects they can do so in Neighbourhood Plans.
· If this approach is carried forward, against ministerial advice, then Northumberland will be isolated and will be seen to be encouraging further wind development just at a time when government is seeking to encourage more productive renewable technologies.
· Lastly, the pointless attempt to identify new wind development areas will probably, as with the former ‘areas of least constraint’, prove to be costly, difficult and contentious. It may well delay adoption of the Core Strategy and expose the Authority to unnecessary costs and possible legal challenges from aggrieved communities.
NCC’s decision to “identify suitable areas”, apparent from its proposed major modifications to onshore wind policy, as set out in its Schedule of Major Modifications and embodied in a proposed Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) on Renewable Energy, is not justified, is unlikely to be effective and is not consistent with national policy as clarified by ministers.
We consider that NCC should align itself with other local planning authorities in encouraging “community led initiatives” to be identified at local level and embodied in Neighbourhood Plans. Renewable energy guidelines for “individual homes” are already set out in national planning guidance.
NCC is consulting on the proposed “major modifications” to the Core Strategy and on a Scoping Report for a future Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) on Renewable Energy, from 15 June to 27 July 2016. The Society encourages those concerned to take part in that consultation:
Two consultations are listed (click on choice):
1. Core strategy Pre-submission Draft - Proposed Major Modifications - http://northumberland-consult.limehouse.co.uk/portal/planning/core_strategy/csmm
2. Renewable Energy SPD - Scoping document - http://northumberland-consult.limehouse.co.uk/portal/planning/spd/renewableenergy/scoping
In both cases, click on 'Read and comment on document' to access consultation page.
Click on LHS menus to access parts of documents.
1. With the 'Major Modifications' consultation the key chapter is '11. Managing Natural Resources' -
Use the ‘Add comments’ button, top right (you must be registered and logged in to make comments).
2. With Renewable Energy SPD - Scoping consultation, there are 11 questions scattered through the sections, beginning with '2, Background'. Click on each chapter in LHS menu to access text and questions (again you must be registered and logged in to make comments).
NB The instructions for commenting on the major modification say:
“Like the Pre-Submission stage, in October / November 2015, this is a formal, statutory stage in the production of the Core Strategy, as set out in Regulations. Responses must refer only to the major modifications, as set out in this Schedule of Major Modifications and they must be based around the 'Tests of Soundness' that require the Core Strategy to be 'Positively Prepared', 'Justified', 'Effective' and consistent with national policy.” (Core Strategy Pre-Submission Draft - Schedule of Proposed Major Modifications, 6, p.3).
The Council has expressed a preference for responses to be made online via the consultation portal. However, the Council will also accept comments, using the representation form, via email to: PlanningStrategy@northumberland.gov.uk or by post (see NCC website).
If you have any questions about either consultation, contact NCC’s Planning Strategy team: PlanningStrategy@northumberland.gov.uk, Tel. 0345 600 6400.
NEPG spokesperson: Don Brownlow Tel. 01289 382702, Mob. 07480 146 700
N&N Exec.Dir. Sue Howie, Tel. 0191 281 6266, (Mon–Thurs., 9.00am – 1.00pm).
1 House of Commons: Written Statement (HCWS40), Written Statement made by: Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change (Amber Rudd) on 18 Jun 2015 (PDF download): http://www.parliament.uk/documents/commons-vote-office/June%202015/18%20June/2-DECC-Wind.pdf
2 House of Commons: Written Statement (HCWS42), Written Statement made by: Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Greg Clark) on 18 Jun 2015 (PDF download): http://www.parliament.uk/documents/commons-vote-office/June%202015/18%20June/1-DCLG-Planning.pdf
3 As confirmed by planning officers at meetings with representatives of the Northumberland & Newcastle Society.
4 Proposed alteration to Policy 65, Renewable and low carbon energy (MAJ/11/22, Paragraph 11.80C): http://northumberland-consult.limehouse.co.uk/portal/planning/core_strategy/csmm?pointId=s1457446530149#section-s1457446530149
5 ‘Councillors reject wind turbine plan following community’s objections’, North Devon Journal, 6 May, 2016: http://www.northdevonjournal.co.uk/Councillors-reject-wind-energy-plan-following/story-29237897-detail/story.html
Letter from North Devon Councillor David Luggar: http://davidluggar.yourcllr.com/wind-turbine-proposed-policy-for-north-devon/
Minute of North Devon Council meeting: http://www.northdevon.gov.uk/viewimage/?ID=CF8BA43C-AA44-45FE-AFFF-37C07A542929&DS=9020
North Devon & Torridge District Plan:
7 South Cambridgeshire local Plan, Schedule of Proposed Modifications (March 2016): https://www.cambridge.gov.uk/public/ldf/coredocs/RD-MC/rd-mc-150.pdf (PDF download).
Prepared by the Northumberland Environmental Protection Group of the Northumberland & Newcastle Society, with the assistance of the CPRE.