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The Head of Scottish Power was quoted as stating that England is “a ‘godforsaken’ place for building wind farms” in January of this year. It therefore came as no surprise when the company subsequently stated that it will not be seeking to gain planning consent to construct onshore wind turbines in England in 2024. This is despite what the Conservative Government claim was an end to the “de facto ban” on onshore wind in England introduced in 2015 through the changes made to the NPPF in September 2023.


Onshore wind has long been a topic of discussion since its “de facto ban” in 2015. Statistics indicate that since 2015 there has been a 96% reduction in the number of onshore wind turbines approved and constructed in England when compared to 2011 – 2015 (the period before the “de facto ban”). This is a drastic decline given the UK considers itself a world leader in wind energy, and particularly given the UK government's Net Zero commitments. Analysis by Carbon Brief estimates that if onshore wind had continued to be built at the same rate it was in 2017 – before the ban started to come into effect – 7GW of onshore wind would have been built (enough to power over 5 million homes).


Despite this, even the government's recently revised ‘National Policy Statement Renewable Energy Infrastructure (EN-3)’ [NPS EN-3] excludes any provision for onshore wind in England. This omission is subject to legal challenge, but at present the only way to achieve consent for onshore wind turbines is through the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (as amended) and the provisions in the NPPF.

The figure below highlights the disparity in onshore wind development across the UK showing the number of onshore turbines across the UK under construction as of October 2023.


ST Article


The government’s revisions to the NPPF in September 2023 were hailed by Mr Gove as the end to the “de facto ban”, but in reality the changes were a ‘tweak’ to policy wording.

Paragraph 155 (now para 160) and paragraph 158 (now para 163) of the NPPF seek to promote onshore wind through Local Plan allocations, and otherwise limit consent to the repowering and life-extension of existing renewable sites. Any new onshore wind turbines can only be permitted where:

  • the development site is in an area identified as suitable for wind energy development in a Local or Neighbourhood Plan; and
  • following consultation, it can be demonstrated that the planning impacts identified by affected local communities have been fully addressed and therefore the proposal has their backing.


This comes at a time when very few new Local Plans are being adopted and where they are, this often takes several years. Almost two thirds of Local Plans in England are already in place and a third are under preparation. The vast majority make no provision for onshore wind. It would likely take more than 10-15 years for every Local Plan in England to be updated.


Energy companies and developers are therefore either battling a planning system weighted heavily against them to deliver onshore wind turbines or are simply not attempting to at all.  Therefore, the current government approach to onshore wind is sluggish, outdated and does not allow a credible form of alternative renewable energy to be developed in England to meet net zero targets.


By contrast, Scotland has pioneered the way in the UK for wind farm development. The Scottish NPF 4 Policy 11 for example, sets out clear support for where wind farms (on and offshore) can be supported, even in National Parks, at all scales.


At DHA, we believe several changes could be made to empower the onshore wind industry in England. These could include:

  1. Changing the NPSs to include onshore wind to allow a wider centralised government led approach to delivering this form of renewable energy;


  1. Changing of NPPF policy to remove the need for site allocations for wind turbines in Local Plans;


  1. Create new polices setting a clear expectation on what, and where, onshore wind will, and can, be supported, potentially through the newly emerging national development management policies or the NPPF; and


  1. The potential for zoning of land, or areas in England where onshore wind is appropriate at a regional level.


It is considered that such amendments to planning policy could help strategically plan and deliver onshore wind to aid the decarbonisation of the grid.


So, what does the future hold for onshore wind in England?


The outcome of the legal challenge to the omission of onshore wind within NPS EN-3 is not yet known. This is likely to be a lengthy process and we are unlikely to see an outcome in 2024.


As we head towards a general election in the Autumn of 2024, Labour has stated that it would immediately remove the ban on onshore wind, but this of course would rely on Labour success and politicians sticking to their promises.


DHA will be keeping an eye on the development of onshore wind across 2024. Do look out for updates.

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