Planning Policy Wales (PPW), issued by the Welsh Assembly Government in March 2002, set the context for sustainable land use planning policy, within which statutory development plans are prepared by local authorities and development control decisions are taken on individual planning applications and appeals. It sets out the land use planning policies of the Welsh Assembly Government.
The advice in some sections of the PPW was formally replaced by a Ministerial Interim Planning Policy Statement, MIPPS (01/2005 Planning for Renewable Energy), issued by the Welsh Assembly Government in July 2005. The new paragraphs record the UK Government’s agreement to a 12.5% reduction in greenhouse gases below 1990 levels by 2008-12, and its goal of reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 20% of 1990 levels by 2010.
It notes that the Assembly Government is committed to playing its part by delivering an energy programme which contributes to reducing carbon emissions and confirms that it has established specific renewable electricity production targets for Wales of 4TWh (terawatt hours) per annum by 2010 and 7TWh per annum by 2020. It urges local planning authorities to support renewable energy projects, provided environmental impacts are avoided or minimised and nationally and internationally designated areas are not compromised.
The MIPPS states that the most appropriate scale at which to identify areas for onshore wind energy development is at an all-Wales level, and cross-refers to TAN 8: Planning for Renewable Energy. TAN 8 was published concurrently with the MIPPS and identifies Strategic Search Areas (SSAs), which are regarded as the most appropriate locations for large scale wind farm development.
TAN 8 refers specifically to onshore wind energy, and confirms that:
‘…onshore wind power offers the greatest potential for an increase in the generation of electricity from renewable energy in the short to medium term. In order to meet the target for onshore wind production the Assembly Government has commissioned extensive technical work, which has led to the conclusion that, for efficiency and environmental reasons amongst others, large scale (over 25MW) onshore wind developments should be concentrated into particular areas defined as Strategic Search Areas (SSAs).’
The SSAs have been defined following extensive research and assessment undertaken on behalf of the Assembly Government by Arup, who have defined a series of land use, landscape, ecological, amenity, wind speed, ground conditions and telecommunications / air traffic communication constraints. That research was supplemented by a parallel research project undertaken in 2004 by Garrad Hassan and Partners Limited, which considered the technical feasibility of wind farm developments within the SSAs that were emerging from the Arup study, to include considerations of noise, air safeguarding and the effect of forestry plantations in wind sources and energy production. That exercise served to exclude large areas of Wales from consideration as potential SSAs: in particular, National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty were deemed inappropriate for wind farm developments and areas with the highest ecological and cultural heritage designations were similarly excluded.
In 2006, the Energy Review Report was presented to Parliament. Prepared by the then DTI, the report deals with the UK as a whole. It states that the Government has decided to give greater clarity on the strategic issues relating to renewables and it expressly states that Annex D to the report – the Renewables Statement of Need – is to be regarded as a material planning consideration in Wales, alongside TAN 8: Planning for Renewable Energy. Annex D reaffirms the UK Government’s commitment to the important role renewables have to play in helping the UK meet its energy policy goals and emphasises that new renewable projects provide crucial national benefits, even if they may not always appear to convey particular local benefit.
In March 2010, the Welsh Assembly Government issued its new Energy Policy Statement, reflecting the latest UK Government policy position and building on the results of the Assembly Government’s consultations on the Renewable Energy Route Map for Wales and the Bioenergy Action Plan for Wales. The aim of the policy, as set out in the statement, is:
“…to renewably generate up to twice as much electricity annually by 2025 as we use today and by 2050, at the latest, be in a position where almost all of our local energy needs, whether for heat, electrical power or vehicle transport, can be met by low carbon electricity production.”
The 2010 statement affirms that the Assembly Government will use all its powers, including its planning powers, to support the policy. For onshore wind generation, the Assembly Government’s new policy is to have 4.5 kWh/d/p (kilowatt hours per day per person) installed capacity by 2015/2017. This is equivalent to 5TWh, which may be compared with the targets in MIPPS 01/2005 of renewable electricity production targets for Wales of 4TWh per annum by 2010 and 7TWh per annum by 2020.This new onshore wind target is to be achieved in a number of ways but, principally, by “…optimising the use of the existing strategic search areas set out in Technical Advice Note (TAN) 8 on Planning for Renewable Energy and keeping the TAN under review in the light of progress towards these targets.”
The 2011 Planning Policy Wales (PPW) reiterated the aims of the 2010 Welsh Assembly Government Energy Policy Statement.