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Nimby councils hold up small wind farms

Local planning authorities are jeopardising the UK's bid to produce 15% of its total energy from renewable sources by 2020, it was claimed last week.

The government predicts it needs 14GW of onshore wind generating capacity as part of an overall renewables mix to hit the EU 2020 target. But, wind industry experts said weaknesses in the planning system are preventing onshore wind from delivering its target contribution.

At present plans to build 7.1GW of capacity are stuck in the planning system. This is more than the combined total capacity of schemes in operation, under construction or with planning consent.

"Unfortunately it’s always the vocal minority heard by the councillors, and they’re too easily influenced, and become heroes for saying 'no' to central government," said renewables firm Your Energy’s managing director Richard Mardon, speaking at the British Wind Energy Association’s (BWEA) 30th anniversary conference in London last week.

The new Planning Bill is intended to speed up infrastructure planning applications by fast tracking projects through the new Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC).

But proposals for wind farms with a generating capacity below 50MW will fall outside the IPC’s remit and will to go through the local planning system. Mardon said councillors on planning authorities had to be stronger in face of opposition to the project. "Ninety per cent are in favour of windfarms or don’t care either way," he said.

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