IPPR takes aim at the ‘not fit for purpose’ English planning system for renewables. Image: Getty Images.

A new report released by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) has dubbed the English planning system “not fit for purpose” for net zero technologies such as solar and onshore wind.

As a result, the IPPR report has called for restrictions on onshore wind and solar power to be reduced and for local authorities to be compelled to identify land suitable for onshore wind and solar generation.

According to the report, only 17 new onshore wind farms, which have produced just 6.7MW of power, have been developed since the de facto ban on onshore wind was introduced by the UK Government in 2015. This is despite the technology being regarded as one of the cheapest methods in producing renewable energy alongside solar.

Highlighting the extend of the issue at hand, the report found that it “would take 4,700 years for England to reach the onshore wind capacity called for by government advisers” at the current rate of development.

Both the planning system and the prospect of lifting the de facto ban on onshore wind have recently been discussed in Parliament. In November, Simon Clarke MP, the former Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, put forward an amendment to the Levelling Up Bill that would allow local planning authorities to approve onshore wind projects.

The amendement gained significant traction and led to the government confirming it would relax its de facto ban. However, under the proposed planning rules, local plans showing areas suitable for wind energy must still be drawn up and the wording on community consent remains so broad that one person's objection can stop an onshore wind project from going ahead, said RenewableUK.

In light of this, IPPR’s report calls for a complete reset of the English planning system to ensure local authorities are compelled to draw up detailed plans for renewable development in their areas that integrate environmental targets, to provide greater certainty.

Doing so could bolster both the onshore wind sector and the solar sector in the UK.

“None of the failures of the English system are inevitable. The de facto ban on onshore wind, the lack of coherence in environmental regulations and the lack of good quality housing are all solvable by reforming the system,” said Maya Singer Hobbs, IPPR senior research fellow and lead report author.

Luke Murphy, IPPR associate director for energy, climate, housing, and infrastructure, said: “The current planning system in England is not remotely fit for purpose to build a net zero world, restore nature, or meet housing need. At current build rates, we’re as far from delivering the onshore wind we need for energy security as we are from the start of construction of Stonehenge in 2,500 BC.

“Fundamental planning reform is needed to accelerate efforts to reduce emissions and restore nature, rollout renewable energy generation, and to deliver the level of housebuilding that the country so desperately needs.

“Without a reset of the planning system all the main political parties will fail to deliver on their key objectives, from economic growth to energy security, and addressing the climate and nature crises.”

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