Written evidence from Ecotricity (ARSS
Targets set for renewable energy development are
an important tool in ensuring the delivery of generating capacity.
The removal of these targets from the development plan will weaken
the ability of the industry to deliver this capacity.
We do not believe that the fiscal proposals suggested
by the Coalition will persuade to accept new development in their
environment. In any event the significant elements of the fiscal
measures proposed appear to be rebranding of measures that were
already in place under the previous administration.
We do not think that the measures proposed by the
Coalition are adequate to address the policy vacuum that has been
created. Without further detail it is difficult to distinguish
how the concepts being considered will fill this vacuum. There
remains a requirement for a policy framework above the local level
which has not been described.
The disbanding of the Leader Boards will ultimately
lead to local authorities having to collect and manage their own
data at their own expense.
1. This submission provides evidence to
the Communities and Local Coalition Committee Inquiry into the
abolition of Regional Spatial Strategies. It is provided on behalf
of Ecotricity. Ecotricity is a Stroud based renewable energy company
which has 51 wind turbines generating 193MW electricity. We have
a growing portfolio of sites in construction, consented and in
the planning system.
2. To inform the Inquiry, the Committee
has posed the development industry a number of questions which,
whilst weighted towards the housing sector have similar application
across all sectors.
The implications of the abolition of regional
renewable energy targets for levels of renewable energy development
3. In response to the decision of the Secretary
of State for Communities and Local Government to revoke and ultimately
abolish Regional Spatial Strategies most reaction has focussed
on the implications for the housing market and the delivery of
housing required to meet local demand. However, the Strategies
contained targets for a wide range of development types and this
submission concentrates on the implications for the delivery of
renewable energy in the form of onshore wind.
4. The requirement to prepare RSS's came
out of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 and when
adopted they became a formal part of the Development Plan. Section
36(6) of the Act requires that determinations on planning applications
must be made in accordance with the development plan unless material
considerations indicate otherwise.
5. As the RSS formed part of the Development
Plan this created a strong and statutory relationship between
national targets and local authority decision making. The removal
of the RSS's removes that relationship between national targets
and local decision making. In our opinion the result will be a
reduction in the weight that local decision makers will give to
the delivery of national targets. The outcome will be that decisions
will focus entirely on local impacts and these will no longer
be balanced against national targets.
6. Prior to the revocation of the Regional
Spatial Strategies the situation was that Government set national
targets which were translated at regional level by the Regional
Assembly. Local planning authorities then determined individual
planning applications against criteria based policies where these
had been adopted to deliver projects towards regional targets.
7. This approach acknowledges that, because
of a range of constraints, no single region could deliver all
of the renewable energy required to meet the established targets
and the regional approach allowed for a disaggregation of supply
across England. The targets were based on a robust assessment
of the capacity of each region to deliver renewable generation
capacity with input to this process from the renewable energy
industry and local communities.
8. In recent years an important element
of environmental and energy policy-making has been the establishment
of targets for the achievement of given outcomes by a specified
date. Targets do not, of course, determine which means might be
used to deliver them, but they do give a clear indication of ends.
In this context the end is the achievement of a global objective
through the delivery of projects at a local level. In this respect
the achievement of renewable energy targets cannot be compared
to the delivery of residential or employment land allocation.
9. Given the global imperative to reduce
emissions and as a consequence climate change the case for continuing
to set targets is strong. They provide an obvious means of focusing
both policy makers' and market participants' attention on areas
where new policy measures may be required or existing ones adjusted.
For example the Open Source Green Paper identifies that the planning
process is an obstacle to the delivery of renewable energy projects
and needs to be speeded up.
10. The UK targets for renewable energy generation
first appeared in 2000, and were contained in New and Renewable
This strategy document set a target of 10% of energy from renewable
sources by 2010. It also established the strong relationship between
a positive, strategic approach to planning for renewable energy,
including targets for renewable energy provision, from the regional
level downwards to facilitate its development while continuing
to protect the countryside.
11. The Government therefore proposed that regional
renewable energy assessments should set the framework for a more
strategic land use planning approach at regional level, itself
providing the framework for local authorities' development plans
and decisions on individual energy projects. It is important to
note that at no time did Regional Assemblies have the power to
determine planning applications.
commitment to target setting and delivery towards these targets
had already been established in Government policy in the form
of guidance within Planning Policy Statement 22-Renewable Energy
("PPS22-2004") in respect of regional targets. This
"Targets should be set for achievement by
2010 and by 2020. Progress towards achieving these targets should
be monitored by regional planning bodies. Targets should be reviewed
on a regular basis
13. In 2007, the EU Heads of State agreed to
legally binding targets for the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions
and a corresponding increase in the proportion of energy derived
from renewable sources. Reducing greenhouse gases and increasing
renewable energy according to the targets agreed by the Heads
of State and Government will make the EU much less dependent on
imports of oil and gas. This reduces the exposure of the EU economy
to rising and volatile energy prices, inflation, geopolitical
risks and risks related to inadequate supply chains that are not
keeping up with global demand growth.
14. The UK Renewable
Energy Strategy 2009
establishes a target of renewable energy of 15% by 2020,
almost a seven-fold
increase in the share of renewables in scarcely more than a decade.
This target relates to a legally binding EU obligation entered
into by the UK Coalition under the 20-20-20 Directive.
15. 2010 is a significant
milestone on the route toward this target. The interim target
for renewable energy set for 2010 is 10%. Data prepared by Renewables
UK illustrates how there will be a significant shortfall of 45%
in the delivery of renewable energy against the interim 2010 targets.
16. With the removal
of the RSS targets and the policy vacuum which this has created,
local planning authorities will be at best treading water waiting
for the transitional guidance to emerge, and at worst abandoning
work prepared to date with a view to re-evaluating housing targets.
In either scenario renewable energy proposals will fall foul of
this hiatus as local planning authorities will be focussing their
energy on other priorities.
17. PPG3 Housing
advises that evidence of current and future levels of need for
housing should be based on local and sub-regional evidence of
need and demand. In contrast, until the national target of 10%
by 2010, or 20% by 2020 are achieved, there is a need for every
renewable energy project. In the absence of regional targets and
measurement of progress against those targets the difficulty will
be in persuading local planning authorities that there remains
a need for individual projects presented to them.
18. In revoking the RSS, the Coalition has made
clear the duty of local planning authorities to continue to bring
forward plans such as Core Strategies which contain growth for
their area. Although local planning authorities now have the freedom
to create their own growth targets local planning authorities
must base this on robust evidence.
19. As it stands
local authorities will still have to maintain a five year supply
of housing land for their district and this is confirmed in the
revised PPG3. They will have to establish this without reference
to a regional target which will mean undertaking research into
local need and demand. If the localism proposals are pursued for
all development sectors then the burden on local planning authorities
in terms of justifying allocations would multiply accordingly.
20. We have serious
doubts about the ability of local planning authorities to identify
the capacity of their particular area to accommodate a particular
form of development across the whole range development types in
terms of resources and/or expertise.
21. In his letter
of the 29 June 2010 to all local authorities the Secretary of
State for Communities and Local Coalition introduces the concept
of Local Enterprise Partnerships. These sub-national amalgams
will take time to evolve and we are concerned that in the meantime
the decision making process will suffer.
22. Our submission,
in response to the specific question, is that the abolition of
the RSS's will result
in a significant slowing in the delivery of renewable energy capacity.
The likely effectiveness of the Coalition's plan
to incentivise local communities to accept new development, and
the nature and level of the incentives which will need to be put
in place to ensure an adequate level of renewable energy development
23. It is clear from the Conservatives Green
Paper on planning that the revocation of the Regional Spatial
Strategies is driven by a belief that householders and local communities
resist development proposals because they are brought forward
as a result of targets formulated in Whitehall or Regional Assemblies.
This is clearly a flawed belief as development proposals attracted
opposition long before the introduction of RSS's in 2004.
24. The Green Paper also suggests that to date,
local communities have not had the ability to influence their
environment proactively but have just had to react to proposals
as they are brought forward by developers. This is also clearly
not the case as, since 2000 there has been the facility for towns,
villages and parishes to develop plans which would identify where
the community would prefer development to be located and what
local character should be retained. These plans would then feed
into the formulation of Local Development Frameworks. In an urban
context these have taken the form of Sustainable Community Strategies.
The availability of these tools has not led to communities universally
engaging in the process to influence their environment or prevented
them opposing development which they find objectionable.
25. To remedy this
situation the Coalition is proposing purely fiscal measures. The
Green Paper on planning sets out the Coalition's intention to
allow communities that choose to host wind farms to keep the business
rates they generate for six years. They also announced an intention
to examine how community ownership of wind turbines can be introduced,
as on the Continent, and how discounted electricity can be available
to communities in the vicinity of wind farms.
26. In relation
to housing, the Coalition incentive proposed to match the council
tax raised from each new property by 100%. This, in the submission
of the Coalition, would reassure local residents that by allowing
new housing the cost of any new services required to support those
properties would be adequately funded. This misses the obvious
argument which will be adopted by local residents which will be
that if we do not have the housing in the first place the existing
services would be adequate.
27. It is understood
that the money to finance this incentive will be sourced from
the Housing and Planning Delivery Grant. The principles of HPDG
were described as being to:
Strengthen the incentive for local authorities
to respond to local housing pressures by returning the benefits
of growth to communities; and
Incentivise efficient and effective planning procedures
28. The grant allowed
local authorities to employ additional resources within planning
departments to improve the through flow of planning applications
and the quality of decision making. The Coalition's proposal as
outlined in the Green Paper is to reintroduce this grant under
a different name.
29. The ring fencing
of business rates from renewable energy development for deployment
in local communities seems sensible but in our opinion this will
not reverse opposition to development proposals.
30. In response
to the specific question it is our submission that the incentives
proposed by the Coalition will not assist in persuading local
communities to accept new development.
3 AND 4
The arrangements which should be put in place to
ensure appropriate cooperation between local planning authorities
on matters formerly covered by regional spatial strategies (eg
waste, minerals, flooding, the natural environment, renewable
The adequacy of proposals already put forward by
the Government, including a proposed duty to co-operate and the
suggestion that Local Enterprise Partnerships may fulfil a planning
31. As a development company we have concerns
about the way in which the reformation of spatial planning has
been handled on a number of counts. Given the content of the Conservatives
manifesto, the Green Papers on planning (Open Source) and Local
Government (Open Source) it was evident that a fundamental change
was being signalled. However, what has surprised the development
industry is the absence of transitional arrangements in the short
term and paucity of detail of what will replace the existing structures
in the longer term.
32. There are clearly issues which require consideration
at a spatial level beyond the boundaries of a single local authority.
These issues include housing, transport, the economy and the environment
and need to be addressed at a scale higher than local. In 2007,
Keith Mitchell, the Conservative chairman of the South East England
Regional Assembly, said "The assembly gives elected local
councillors the power to make decisions on housing, transport,
the economy and the environment that are too big for a single
local authority to make. Without the assembly these decisions
would be made by quangos or remote civil servants."
33. In August 2010, the RTPI and 29 other national
bodies involved in spatial planning at various levels wrote to
the Secretary of State to express concerns about the withdrawal
of the RSS's and the absence of any specific framework to replace
them. The legal challenge to the withdrawal of the RSS's submitted
by CALA homes and endorsed by the HBF suggests that the development
industry is not prepared to roll over and let the change happen
without a fight.
34. The RSS's which had been adopted had been
the subject of consultation with the development industry and
local communities during their evolution. For example the North
East Strategy was subject to four rounds of public consultation.
They were not therefore conceived in isolation of community input
and then foisted upon them.
35. We understand that the Government has invited
submissions from groupings who would like to form Local Enterprise
Partnerships and not surprisingly we understand that many of these
are from collections which correspond closely to the former regional
boundaries. The Secretary of State suggests that these bids are
from people "finally freed from the shackles of regionalism".
We would suggest that the submissions are more likely to be from
people staring into a policy vacuum and reacting out of necessity
to fill that vacuum.
36. We support the concept of a National Planning
Statement but do not feel that any objectives or target set out
in an NPS can be or will be achieved by local communities acting
alone. A further level of planning is needed between the national
and the local, which sets priorities for investment and solutions
to problems which can only be addressed beyond town or borough
boundaries. This sub-national level is required to ensure that
investment in major infrastructure best serves both the needs
of local communities and the wider area.
37. An intermediary level is necessary to ensure
an integrated approach to the protection and enhancement of the
environment and to prevent loss of biodiversity and where any
decisions taken locally have a wider than local impact. This level
of planning is important to ensure that climate change is addressed
at a level where intervention can be most effective. Importantly,
this level of planning can assist in making the delivery of infrastructure
more cost effective.
38. The Green Paper suggests that regional spatial
guidance has been withdrawn in Germany and Switzerland, but that
is clearly not the case as this, tier (the Lander and the Canton)
continues to be an important element of the planning process in
39. In response to the specific question we would
submit that RSS's were delivering a spatial framework for the
delivery of infrastructure, development and investment. They had
been the subject of consultation with the development industry
and local communities and were an important element of the development
plan. We agree with the Secretary of State's assertion that people
relate to their environment on different levels from street through
neighbourhood through to country but that region forms an important
part of that relationship. Prior to the introduction of the RSS's
the regional identity of for example the North East, North West
or Midlands was deep rooted. We feel that any new arrangements
should continue to reflect these historic alliances.
40. In our opinion the proposals put forward
by Government are inadequate and without further illumination
it is difficult to distinguish how the nebulous concept of the
LEP can properly deliver the planning function that was previously
provided by the regional plans.
How the data and research collated by the now-abolished
Regional Local Authority Leaders' Boards should be made available
to local authorities, and what arrangements should be put in place
to ensure effective updating of that research and collection of
further research on matters crossing local authority boundaries
41. With the disbanding of the Leaders Boards
there is a further vacuum in terms of research and monitoring.
The Government will no doubt argue that in the absence of regional
targets the monitoring of delivery against targets is less critical.
Nevertheless, over time the existing data will become redundant
and it will be the responsibility of each authority to carry out
the research and monitor across each development type at its own
118 DTi New and Renewable Energy: Prospects for the
21st Century. Back
CLG Planning Policy Guidance Note 22-Renewable Energy Para 3.
DECC The UK Renewable Energy Strategy 2009. Back