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BWEA31: Wind farm planning approvals slump to new low of 25%

Local council approvals of wind farm applications in the UK have fallen to a new low of just 25%, the British Wind Energy Association (BWEA) said at BWEA31 in Liverpool on 20-22 October.

BWEA’s State of the Industry Report shows that despite the strong growth in the number of wind farms being built, there is now a large drop in the number of new applications being approved locally.

As the capacity of operational wind farms reaches 4 GW of installed capacity, approvals of new wind farm applications by local authority has fallen from 63% in 2007 to just 25% so far this year, forcing more developers to appeal applications to the Planning Inspectorate, BWEA said.

BWEA Chief Executive, Maria McCaffery, said: “The planning system is broken when it comes to wind energy. A 25% approval rate is truly shocking, especially when you think that there is an approval rate of over 70% for roads, housing and supermarkets.

“Winning approvals at appeal is second best for everyone, it is expensive, slow and cumbersome for developers and frustrating and confusing for local people. We need a fresh, new approach to local decision making where Councils are not unduly swayed by vocal NIMBY pressure groups but make their judgments on the facts.”

The UK Government’s Renewable Energy Strategy published in July set a target of 14 GW of installed capacity for onshore wind by 2020. Onshore there are currently 3.2 GW installed, 0.8 GW being built and 3.4 GW under construction – making 7.4 GW total or just over half way to the target. However there are another 7.4 GW in planning – enough to reach the target in time if they are approved, BWEA said.

Speaking at the BWEA31 conference where the report was launched former Deputy Prime Minister Rt Hon John Prescott MP, who was the UK’s Chief Negotiator for the Kyoto Climate Change Treaty and is now the Council of Europe Rapporteur on Climate Change said: “It is absolutely scandalous that three quarters of all planning applications for onshore wind turbines are turned down. We cannot let the vocal minority stop our move to a low carbon economy and stop us meeting our global emissions targets.”

McCaffery added: “We need wind to be delivered quickly because over the next decade fully one third of our existing power stations will be decommissioned, and without a dramatic change in our energy production we will reach the tipping point for catastrophic and irreversible climate change.

“Although there is enough wind in the system to meet the 2020 renewable energy targets half the pipeline of these projects still needs to win approval - a local council approval rate of 25% threatens the delivery of that target in time.”

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