Getting planning permission for wind turbines will become harder as the best sites get snapped up, warn solicitors Coles Miller.
Smaller schemes are likely to be the way forward following public concerns over large scale wind farms, says the firm’s specialist planning team.
But many hilltop sites that are ideal for wind turbines fall within National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) or Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).
So landowners proposing small schemes - even just one or two turbines - are being recommended to seek specialist advice when dealing with the planning authorities.
Coles Miller planning consultant James Cain said: “The low hanging fruit is disappearing. It is getting harder to find onshore sites that are not covered by some form of planning protection.
“By their very nature, the sites with the best exposure to the wind tend to be hilly beauty spots.
“So applications for turbines in places like these will require innovative solutions that are sensitive to the needs of the local communities,” added Mr Cain, a member of the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI).
Offshore sites are one solution but even they are not immune to difficulties. Marine currents, seabed issues and water depth can all make schemes prohibitive.
Coles Miller’s warning follows news of RWE Innogy’s decision (1) to drop its Atlantic Array project which would have involved siting 240 turbines off the coasts of North Devon and South Wales.
But the Dorset planning consultants expect more UK homeowners to consider installing small domestic wind turbines in a bid to mitigate the cost of their rising energy bills.
More companies are also expected to fit turbines to their premises. Industrial sites have a greater need to cut bills and are also less likely to suffer from objections.
“Permitted development rights allow the installation of some domestic wind turbines without the need to apply for planning permission,” said Mr Cain.
“But strict rules apply so it is very important to check before investing in a turbine,” he added.
The rules differ, depending on whether the turbine is a standalone unit or mounted on a building.
Factors include the height of the turbine, size of blades, distance from boundaries, compliance with standards and whether the land concerned is safeguarded for aviation purposes.
Permitted development rights for building-mounted turbines apply only to detached houses - not blocks of flats.
Only the first installation of a building-mounted turbine is viewed as permitted development. There must not be an existing air source heat pump.
No part of a building-mounted turbine (including the blade) should protrude more than three metres above the highest section of the roof (excluding the chimney).
Coles Miller’s planning consultants help both commercial and private clients. Most of their work is in Dorset and Hampshire, particularly Bournemouth and Poole.
But their specialist work on wind turbine schemes can involve locations throughout the UK.
Coles Miller has five offices in Dorset: Bournemouth, Poole, Broadstone, Charminster and Wimborne.
For more information, please contact Coles Miller Solicitors’ Chartered Town Planning Consultant James Cain, 01202 293226.