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Harnessing wind power (new policy)

2.29 For some time it has been Government policy for local planning authorities to have a positive strategy to promote energy from renewable and low carbon sources including the identification of suitable areas for renewable and low carbon energy sources.

2.30 Particularly for wind energy development Local Plans should identify suitable areas for wind energy development and make clear what criteria have determined their selection, including what size of development is considered suitable in these areas. The NPPF (Feb 2019) states that:

‘A proposed wind energy development involving one or more wind turbines should not be considered acceptable unless it is in an area identified as suitable for wind energy development in the development plan; and, following consultation, it can be demonstrated that the planning impacts identified by the affected local community have been fully addressed and the proposal has their backing.’

2.31 The preparation of the partial update presents an opportunity to reconsider the Council’s approach to wind energy development in light of the NPPF.A study was undertaken in 2010 to assess the potential capacities and the landscape sensitivity to wind development for small, medium and large wind turbines. It also provides guidance on identifying suitable areas for the location of wind turbines in the formulation of criteria against which specific proposals may be assessed in relation to landscape impact. Further work was undertaken to identify Landscape and Visual Issues for Areas with Technical Potential for Wind Energy Development.

2.32 The Council has commissioned a Renewable Energy Resource Assessment Study (RERAS) jointly with South Gloucestershire Council and North Somerset Council, as well as updating the landscape sensitivity analysis taking into account the World Heritage Site Setting Supplementary Planning Document and also Cotswolds AONB Position Statement on Renewables. These studies will update the evidence base and identify suitable areas for renewable and low carbon energy generation and related infrastructure. The outcome of this work will, where possible, be presented at future stages of preparing the Local Plan.

2.33 The suggested approach is to identify areas more suitable for wind energy development on the Local Plan Policies Map, based on the latest available landscape sensitivity analysis study and other landscape character and ecological evidence and supported by a comprehensive criteria-based policy. This would give greater certainty as to where such development will be acceptable provided the impacts identified in the policy can be successfully mitigated. Proposals would also need to take in to account environmental constraints and sensitivity.

Consultation Reference DM6

New Policy Emerging policy approach for harnessing wind energy

It is proposed that the policy framework for wind energy development should cover and address the following considerations:

  • Proposals for wind energy development must lie within an area identified as being potentially suitable for this type of development (see options below)*
  • Community support for the scheme can be demonstrated and the material planning impacts identified by affected local communities can be adequately addressed
  • The proposal satisfactorily addresses impact on:
    • Residential amenity resulting from noise, vibrations, shadow flicker or visual dominance
    • Landscape character and visual impact including cumulative impacts
    • Landscape and scenic beauty of the Cotswolds and Mendip Hills AONBs
    • Historic environment including Bath World Heritage Site and its setting
    • Biodiversity and ecology
    • Highway safety and aviation
  • Wider environmental benefits outweigh any significant demonstrable harm to amenity
  • Applications for the replacement and re-powering of existing wind turbines within the district will be considered, in line with the guidance in the NPPF.

*The areas suitable for wind energy development

2.34 You can view the landscape sensitivity analysis for medium size wind turbines (typically 25-95m to blade tip with rotor diameters up to approximately 68m) based on the 2010 landscape sensitivity analysis. The Landscape sensitivity analysis for small to large wind farms can be viewed in full in the 2010 Landscape sensitivity analysis study. The 2010 landscape sensitivity analysis will be updated in the context of reviewed landscape character areas and this may be used to inform the policy approach in the Draft Plan.

2.35 The table below shows the theoretical potential capacity based on the landscape sensitivity areas identified in the Study. This is based on medium scale wind turbines so is likely to be larger given that large and small scale turbines could also come forward in the areas shown to be suitable for them (although in practice, there will be site-specific limiting factors as set out in DM5).

Technical potential – Theoretical
Landscape sensitivity Area (ha) Installed capacity (MW) Power generation (MWh/yr)
Moderate-low 16 2 1,798
Moderate 1,475 207 206,718
Moderate-high 2,706 375 374,490
High 385 53 53,327
Unknown 4 5 5,393
Grand total 4,586 643 641,726

Consultation reference DM7

New Policy Harnessing wind energy

Option 1: Subject to assessment against the criteria set out in policy approach DM5 above allow wind turbines in moderate and less sensitive landscape areas: The study shows that by allowing turbines in landscape areas up to moderate impact would give the technical capacity for 209 MW of wind generated power (based on the analysis for medium size wind turbines).

Option 2: Subject to assessment against the criteria set out in policy approach DM5 above allow wind turbines in Moderate-high and less sensitive landscape areas: This allows increase in land available for wind energy projects and therefore an increased technical capacity/potential level of power generation allowing turbines up to Moderate-High areas would increase the technical potential capacity for 584 MW (based on the analysis for medium size wind turbines).

In both options individual schemes/applications would need to be assessed and determined against a criteria based policy as set out above (ref DM5).