Union hits out at new rules on wind farms

Union chiefs have hit out at the Government over changes to planning rules that they fear will leave farmers out of pocket.

The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) is unhappy that, following Government announcements limiting support for onshore wind power, changes to planning guidelines, made without consultation, mean that applications for large wind farms could end up being treated the same as ones for single turbines.

Since this year’s Conservative general election victory, Communities and Local Government Secretary Greg Clark has overseen the introduction of new planning rules, brought into force last Thursday, and Energy and Climate Change Secretary Amber Rudd has proposed constraints on support for onshore wind under the renewables obligation and possibly the feed-in tariff too.

The NFU is concerned about the impact that might have on farmers and growers wishing to diversify their businesses by adding on-site power generation to provide extra income.

Union president Meurig Raymond said: “We are shocked, but not surprised, at the extent of this apparent U-turn by the Government in low-carbon energy policy.

“These new planning rules could significantly impact on our members’ ability to invest in wind projects on farm, reduce their input costs and make farm enterprises more sustainable.

“We strongly believe that the Government should have consulted more widely, to ensure that these guidelines were fair and workable before bringing them into force.

“The NFU would like to see a distinction made between farm wind and wind farms to enable our members to continue diversifying and supporting their businesses with locally-generated renewable energy.

“It does not appear that local planning authorities have been given the chance to get the necessary local plan policies in place.

“Furthermore, it may be hard for planners to judge whether, after consultation, all the planning impacts identified by affected local communities have been fully addressed.”

Prime Minister David Cameron’s election manifesto committed him to ending any new public subsidy for onshore wind farms and promised changes to national planning policy leading to wind turbines only being permitted if approved locally.

for wind energy development in a local and neighbourhood plan, with a further proviso that local people would have the final say on wind farm applications.