The Decentralisation and the Localism Bill is now at the Committee stage in the House of Lords. Recently we summarized some of the key aspects of the bill.
Localism is being promoted as having the potential to enable communities to plan, build and operate renewable energy project such as wind turbines. This blog looks at the potentially how the bill may facilitate renewable community energy projects.
The bill will introduce neighbourhood planning and development orders. This is promoted as enabling communities to draw up neighbourhood plans to shape development in their own locality and permit development without the need for planning applications (termed Permitted Development Rights). Neighbourhood plans will need to be in-line with relevant local authority plans and national policy but they could include renewables such as wind turbines/ hydropower projects conferring permitted developments rights to these aspects (when the plan has been put to a referendum and adopted). An important caveat here is that the renewable development would have to be non-Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) development to benefit from these rights.
Whether a neighbourhood plan is the best means to develop a community energy scheme is none the less debatable and Rod Ellison considers some existing tools might be more effectively in enabling community projects cost effectively.
The collation has also stated that communities that choose to host wind farms (eg those taken forward by private developers) will be able to keep the business rates they generate for six years. Actually how this will work has yet to be firmed up – none the policy direction should encourage renewable energy companies to further develop their community ownership models which many have been using over the last decade.
Greater detail on what the key opportunities are will be possible when the bill is passed. Also greater clarity will be possible when the draft National Planning Policy Framework, along with guidance on neighbourhood planning and the Community Infrastructure Levy are published for consultation before Parliament goes into recess (I assume later today).
Please get in touch to discuss the best ways of enabling community renewables.