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Is it time for simplified planning for local energy projects?

By Drew Aspinwall
25 August 2022

By Drew Aspinwall

I think I have lost count of the number of times that complications around the planning process is cited as a major barrier in bringing energy generation projects forward, and given the issues we face around energy, specifically security of supply, it is clear that something needs to change in order to make it simpler and quicker to bring new projects online.

Whilst at a national level there is hesitancy and indecision about which energy horse to back for fear of the political ramifications, at the ground level there needs to be a mix of sources of energy creation to meet our needs, and deal with the peaks and troughs in both demand and supply.

The rhetoric of no more gas may be popular in many quarters, the reality is that currently without it we would be looking down the barrel of restriction in supply.

In rural districts it seems to me that it would make sense for local authorities to work on agreeing in principle some development rights up front, which would enable some green energy projects to be brought forward more swiftly.

For example, anaerobic digestion which produces biogas, can be used either to generate electricity or turned into biomethane and injected into the national gas network. These plants can also support the local rural economy and provide farmers and growers some financial certainty, giving them the opportunity to grow a range for crops in rotation, some for food, some for fuel, whilst improving the biodiversity of the land along the way.

A simplified planning regime could use a planning instrument such as a Local Development Order which grants some Permitted Development rights, subject to the limitations and conditions. For anaerobic digestion plants which meet certain criteria related to the suitability of location, environmental factors, local impact, transportation and include the provision of Carbon Capture and Storage technologies could be brought to market quicker than is currently the case.

I’m getting tired of hearing that the plethora of challenges we face are unprecedented, so in which case, where there is a precedent and obviously the will, it should not take much imagination to make it happen allowing us to focus our collective minds on more complicated challenges.

This article was originally published in Advocacy Local’s Politics and Planning Newsletter. To receive our fortnightly newsletter straight to your inbox, subscribe here: