The Weald Action Group has responded to the government’s consultation on proposed updates to the National Planning Policy Framework.
An avalanche of reports in recent years make clear that we are reaching a series of climate tipping points that will launch us into unstoppable climate disaster. Our use of fossil fuels is a major cause of this and it is vital that we reduce our dependency on them as rapidly as possible. This is not happening at anything like the pace that is needed to keep our planet habitable.
Energy is central to every aspect of our world and our well-being, so replacing fossil fuels with clean energy as quickly as possible is essential. This means expanding proven, reliable, forms of clean energy rapidly. At present we rely too much on nascent technologies that could yet prove not to reduce carbon emissions, such as “blue” hydrogen or carbon capture and storage. This is not to say that development into these is not important, but we have to act now using established technologies that can reliably reduce carbon emissions right now.
Onshore wind is one such reliable technology. Moreover, it is one of the cheapest forms of renewable energy, and the infrastructure can be installed quickly in comparison to most other forms of energy. Consequently, we support the proposals to remove the present blocks on onshore wind turbines but we strongly urge that the new policy goes further. Planning policy should include a “presumption in favour” of onshore wind, as long as environmental studies support any chosen location.
All new energy infrastructure will meet some opposition, but generally onshore wind is viewed favourably by a large part of the population. Moreover, there is a huge opportunity for communities to install their own local energy turbines. These will provide a local income which can be used for other community projects and improvements, save local people’s energy bills and provide local jobs. Plans should be introduced to maximise these benefits for local communities and in this way incentivise communities to invest in local energy projects. Present restrictions to benefit these local initiatives should be removed. This would enable the levelling up agenda, but from the ground up.