Planet Earth

published : 2023-09-06

UK Lifts De Facto Ban on Onshore Wind Development

2015 rules introduced under Cameron government allowed turbine project applications to be blocked by single objection

A scenic image of an onshore wind farm in the picturesque countryside of England, taken with a Nikon D850.

In a groundbreaking move, the Conservative government of Britain has relaxed planning rules and lifted restrictions that effectively banned the construction of new onshore wind farms in England.

Under the regulations introduced in 2015 by then-Prime Minister David Cameron, a single objection to a wind turbine application had the power to block its development, leading to a significant decrease in the number of new turbines that were granted planning permission.

However, due to mounting pressure from within the Conservative party, the current government has decided to overturn these outdated rules, which were deemed as not a sensible way for a planning system to operate.

The eased restrictions mean that onshore wind projects supported by local residents will now receive quicker approval, ensuring that elected local officials can make final decisions based on the prevailing view of their communities rather than a small number of objectors.

A group of local residents in England smiling and showing their support for onshore wind projects, captured with a Canon EOS R6.

This significant development also comes with economic advantages for communities that back wind turbines, as they will benefit from cheaper electricity. The specifics of how energy discounts will be implemented and their impact will be considered at a later stage.

While the decision was seen as a positive step by many, some environmental groups expressed their concerns, arguing that there are still too many obstacles to building wind turbines in England. Greenpeace went as far as labeling the changes as 'feeble tweaks' and 'just more hot air from the government'.

Alethea Warrington, the senior campaigner at climate advocacy group Possible, underlined that today's progress, although important, falls short of creating a level playing field for onshore wind when compared to other forms of energy production such as coal mines.

Renewable energy played a significant role in the U.K.'s electricity generation last year, accounting for 42% of the overall mix. However, experts have emphasized the urgency of rapidly scaling up onshore wind energy production if the U.K. is to meet its climate change goals in a timely manner.

An aerial view of a vibrant green landscape dotted with wind turbines, symbolizing the progress towards renewable energy goals, photographed with a Sony A7 III.

The government's commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 68% by 2030, with the ultimate goal of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050, highlights the importance of further embracing the potential of onshore wind power.

This significant policy change reflects a bold step toward combating climate change and aligning the U.K. with its international commitments. As the nation progresses on its path towards a cleaner and more sustainable future, the lifting of the de facto ban on onshore wind development marks an important milestone.