Renewables planning saga part 2: Green Belt, AONB and special circumstances

This is part two of a series; part 1 is here. 

Have you ever made a planning application? It’s quite a process. People moan about it (understandably). But we might as well enjoy it; sharing the pain might even make it a pleasure.

There’s a long form to fill out, and also a list of challenges presented by the helpful pre-planning process we undertook with the local authority. This spelt out the series of pretty substantial hurdles we have to get over to get permission to move on from a smelly old diesel generator to trialing a prototype zero-carbon wind array. 

The planning format requires that we address several points repeatedly, so bear with that. Here in part two is a draft response at the specific objection raised that any sort of development in the green belt is deemed inappropriate in planing terms, unless there are very special circumstances, also that the installation is too small to make any meaningful contribution to the climate crisis. 

You can comment either below (this version will not change) or on the emerging draft which is here (menu Insert/Comment) and which is what will be used for submission.

Dairy farming is the appropriate and lawful use of this Green Belt land. Cows need water. Water needs to be pumped to this location. Meanwhile the council has declared climate emergency and has a policy to achieve zero carbon emissions within 10 years.

Given those facts, why would the Planning Authority favour the use of a large, heavy, noisy, expensive labour-intensive and high-maintenance diesel generator with copious heavy carbon emissions in the green belt. If it permits that – without question – in a sensitive landscape why would it deny permission for the trialling of a prototype light, zero-emissions low maintenance quiet wind array?

This is a sensitive and much loved landscape. Why would planners decide condemn it to noise and emissions under the very law and policy trying to protect it? Why determine that the erection of silent, zero-emissions technology is inappropriate (and therefore prohibited) when the internal-combustion technology which has created the climate emergency does not require any permission?

Would reaching such a decision constitute proper execution of the Planning Authority’s public responsibilities?

There are indeed some very special circumstances: Parliament has declared climate emergency. B&NES has declared climate emergency. This is unprecedented.

The scale of this installation is small but there are wider environmental benefits contingent on this aplication:

a) early proof of the effectiveness of new low-impact low cost lightweight technology

b) testing and proving their acceptability in terms of planning, ecology and visual impact (or seeing what adjustments or limitations are necessary)

If new technology trials are to be forbidden on planning grounds then Planning Authorities at national and local level risk are putting themselves in a position of being culpable and liable for obstructing and preventing precisely the sort of effective local, non-state response to the climate emergency which the UK CCC says is required. There will be no UK market for such vital new technologies.

The specific location of this installation is necessary to support viable farming and amenity activity at this location. But the benefits of this specific installation, once permitted, are not limited to the borehole and the barn. While it’s true to say that it is only to the borehole and the barn that actual electricity will flow, the development of new cost-effective lightweight low impact renewables by British startups, and the proven ability to deploy them even in sensitive UK landscapes will have much wider benefits than just to this one borehole and barn.

While the installation itself is indeed small, it is highly symbolic.

We submit that to deny permission here makes a strong and clear statement that B&NES is not corporately serious or sufficiently focussed about achieving zero emissions by 2030.

Is that clear and effective? Is it the right language and the right substantive points for a planning application? Comments welcome below or on the evolving draft which is here.

About williamheath
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