S olar & Wind Turbine schemes are by far the most popular form of renewable energy development, with energy companies, land owners and investors applying for permission throughout the United Kingdom. In recent years there has been a resurgence of development within the renewable energy sector following the initial subsidies and government funding withdrawal. Due to rising energy costs and the introduction of cheaper technology, both solar and wind turbine schemes are now considered to be good medium to long-term investments. The only stumbling block can be gaining planning consent.
‘Our team of experts are on hand to assist with this process and will handle all aspects of the application to optimise the chances of achieving permission.’
Applications for Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIPs) are determined by the Planning Inspectorate where they exceed thresholds specified in the Planning Act 2008 (PA2008). These projects require a type of consent known as a ‘Development Consent Order’ (DCO) and can include power generating stations (including offshore wind farms) and electricity transmission lines. Under the National Infrastructure Strategy (2020) (NIS), the government has committed to a cross-government NSIP Reform Programme with the ambition to speed up timescales by up to 50% for some projects entering the system from September 2023.
Below the thresholds set out in the PA2008, solar and wind farms require planning permission from the Local Planning Authority (LPA). At the scale of an individual home or small-scale site in certain circumstances, the installation of solar and wind technologies can be deemed permitted development; however, in light of permitted development order restrictions, wind and solar schemes often require formal planning consent from the relevant Local Planning Authorities. Planning consent is also often required if the property or site is located in a Conservation Area, while Listed Building Consent (LBC) is required for Listed Buildings of all forms.
Working in the Heritage sector, we have noticed that more and more applications are being delayed or refused due to insufficient consideration and assessment of the potential impacts of proposed schemes on both designated heritage assets (i.e. listed buildings, scheduled monuments, and registered parks and gardens) as well as non-designated heritage assets (buildings or structures identified as locally listed or of heritage interest during the application process). This underlines the need for a balance between conservation and new development and the need to understand the potential implications of schemes on historic assets and their surroundings.
There is a simple way to ensure that ‘heritage’ issues, including archaeology, do not negatively impact your planning application, and that is to meet them head-on; with proactive research and assessment, you can assess the scheme, present your findings and provide mitigation where possible, thereby reducing the risks of getting refused.
We have the expertise and experience to ensure that renewable energy proposals benefit from robust assessment and are informed early on of both potential constraints and opportunities. This work includes undertaking all related heritage assessments, both for built heritage, historic landscapes and archaeology. We can also offer advice on design and siting, which will help ensure that proposals respond sensitively to important views and the setting of historic landscapes and buildings in line with Historic England guidance. By addressing any impact of a proposal early on in the acquisition and or design process, we can also limit potential risk as well as advice on mitigation for the proposals.
Fuller Long is also experienced at presenting balanced, robust assessments and justifications for solar and wind energy projects that actively address the needs to safeguard and minimise potential impacts on heritage assets and the beauty of our landscapes whilst also helping our communities and development partners meet the challenges of removing our reliance on fossil fuels and improving fuel security.
As a result of our approach and understanding of heritage and the requirements of the planning system to draw balanced conclusions on benefits over harmful effects, Fuller Long has helped clients achieve successful approvals on a variety of schemes. This includes successfully preempting LPA concerns on a recent scheme that would have impacted highly designated heritage assets, including scheduled monuments and listed buildings. Early recognition of the potential impacts allowed the development team to reduce the risk of a refusal.
In understanding the impacts, heritage assets can have on any given scheme, it is important to note that we have seen an increase in Local Authorities retrospectively identifying and designating buildings as Non-Designated Heritage Assets (NDHA’s) mid-application. This then results in the buildings in question becoming material considerations as part of the planning decision process. In light of this, future-proofing applications with careful consideration is essential to help avoid stumbling blocks.
We also often work alongside our strategic partner Queenswood Engagement to help our clients communicate clearly with residents, wider communities and politicians to ensure that the key facts of an application are understood and key stakeholder requirements are met.
To help applicants maximise the opportunities available to them to secure planning permission, we are always keen to be involved in the process at an early stage, allowing us to complete site assessments and identify potential issues. This work is usually completed under an agreed fixed fee appropriate for the site at the earliest possible stage of the project.