National Planning Policy Guideline NPPG6 Renewable Energy
(Draft Revision June 2000)
Policy Context : Renewable Energy
Policy Guidelines : General Principles
Additional Policy Guidelines for Individual Technologies
Edinburgh EH6 6QQ
Telephone: 0131-244 7528
Fax: 0131-244 7555
Date: 1 June 2000
I am pleased to enclose a copy of the consultation draft revision of National Planning Policy Guideline (NPPG) 6: Renewable Energy. The consultation draft sets out the Scottish Executive's proposed new planning guidance on renewable energy. The draft guidance reflects the importance of renewables in addressing climate change and seeks to identify how the planning system can take on a more enabling role in relation to renewable energy.
The consultation draft takes fully into account the wider energy policy considerations in relation to renewable energy, including the UK review of energy policy, the outcome of which was announced early this year, which states a clear requirement to increase the proportion of electricity produced from renewable sources.
The Scottish Executive wishes to see the planning system play its full part by making positive provision for renewable energy developments. Planning authorities must weigh up a range of factors in any planning decision, including the impact of the development on local environmental or economic assets. An important purpose in reviewing planning guidance on renewable energy is to help planning authorities find the balance between the needs of renewable energy developments, conservation and the local impact of particular schemes.
The commitment to review NPPG 6 by summer 2000 as outlined in the "Programme for Government" referred to "locational guidance". Following initial consultation with key interests on what such guidance should contain, the Executive has concluded that the best way forward is guidance in the form of enhanced locational criteria supported by a revised Planning Advice Note. Additionally, the consultation draft acknowledges the present constraints in the electricity grid capacity north of a notional line from the Clyde to Dundee and suggests that it may be easier to accommodate renewable energy developments, including wind farms, in the central belt and southern Scotland. The draft guidance also recognises that urban locations, including brownfield sites, as well as semi-rural areas which have in the past been subject to mineral activity may be appropriate sites for development.
The consultation draft also states our intention to remove the section of the Notification of Applications Direction which requires planning authorities to notify any developments of 10 or more wind turbines which they propose to approve to the Scottish Ministers. This change will allow planning authorities to make these decisions in accordance with the general terms of the Notification Direction.
There are not expected to be any financial implications for the planning system. Could consultees, in responding to the consultation exercise, indicate whether or not this is the case.
Responses to the consultation paper should be sent no later than 28 July 2000 to:
Mr Graham Robinson
The Scottish Executive Development Department
Edinburgh EH6 6QQ
Comments by e-mail are welcome and should be sent to:-
It would be helpful if comments could follow the structure of the document as far as possible. It would also be helpful if consultees providing paper contributions could submit 2 copies (1-unbound) of their response.
In order to inform debate on the issues raised in the consultation paper, the Executive would, as usual, like to make copies of the responses available to the public on request. The Executive will, therefore, assume that responses may be made available in this way. If, however, respondents indicate that they wish all or part of their reply excluded from this arrangement, confidentiality will be respected, although the response may be included in any numerical summary of responses received.
Further copies of the draft guidance are available from The Scottish Executive Development Department, Planning Division Area 2-H, Victoria Quay, Edinburgh EH6 6QQ (0131 244 7066) (e-mail email@example.com) and on the Planning home page on the Scottish Executive web-site at www.scotland.gov.uk/planning/
Assistant Chief Planner
National Planning Policy Guidelines (NPPGs) provide statements of Government policy on nationally important land use and other planning matters, supported where appropriate by a locational framework.
Circulars which also provide statements of Government policy, contain guidance on policy implementation through legislative or procedural change.
Planning Advice Notes (PANs) provide advice on good practice and other relevant information.
Statements of Government policy contained in NPPGs and Circulars may, so far as relevant, be material considerations to be taken into account in development plan preparation and development control.
1. The Scottish Executive is committed to the development of renewable energy as an element of the "Scottish Climate Change Programme". "Making it Work Together - A Programme for Government (September 1999), indicated that revised planning guidance on the location of renewable energy developments would be prepared, recognising the planning system's important role in providing a framework for promoting renewable energy development. This revised NPPG is intended to support an increase in such renewable energy developments in Scotland.
2. The promotion of renewable sources of electricity generation, an integral part of the UK Government's energy policy, has been identified as having a key role in its commitment to addressing the problems of climate change and the introduction of measures in support of the UK "Climate Change Programme". The UK Utilities Bill, once enacted, and the associated new renewables obligations in Scotland and in England and Wales will provide the mechanisms for achieving this.
Renewable energy is the term used to cover those energy flows that occur naturally and repeatedly in the environment - from the sun, the wind and oceans and the fall of water. Plant material, often referred to as biomass (either as energy crops or forestry wastes), is an important source of renewable energy. Combustible or digestible industrial, agricultural and domestic waste materials are also regarded as renewable sources of energy.
3. The UK Government has overall responsibility for energy policy throughout the UK. However, certain responsibilities rest with the Scottish Ministers, for example, authorisation of new electricity generation plant over 50 MW and new hydro plant over 1MW under the Electricity Act 1989 and the making of any Renewables (Scotland) Obligation Order in Scotland under the Utilities Bill, once enacted.
4. This NPPG is set against the background of the Government's energy policy and more particularly, the wider policy for renewables and the Scottish Executive's commitment to the implementation of that policy in Scotland. It is intended to assist the development of future renewable energy projects in Scotland including those projects still to be implemented under SRO's 1-3. It defines the factors to which the Scottish Ministers will have regard when considering policies for renewable energy developments in development plans, and when considering applications for planning permission which come before them on call-in or appeal and indicates the considerations which planning authorities should take into account when drawing-up policies in structure and local plans and when determining planning applications. These are also factors which developers should take into account when preparing development proposals. It is also applicable to the authorisation of electricity generation schemes under Section 36 of the Electricity Act 1989.
5. A variety of factors related to the particular technology involved have to be taken into account in formulating development plan policies and in assessing planning applications for specific renewable energy projects. The main characteristics of renewable energy projects likely to be deployed in Scotland in the foreseeable future are therefore briefly described within the section on "Additional Policy Guidelines for Individual Technologies" (paragraphs 32 - 64) and in more detail in Planning Advice Note 45 (PAN 45 : Renewable Energy Technologies).
6. This NPPG relates primarily to new renewable energy projects connecting with the electricity distribution grid system. Planning applications in respect of smaller scale, stand-alone, projects may also come forward. These can play a valuable role in renewable energy production locally. Although they are not on the same scale as commercial projects and will not count towards the renewable energy targets, they should, where appropriate, be considered against the principles set out in this NPPG.
policy context: renewable energy
Concern for the Environment
7. To meet the commitment to address the climate change issue, made at Kyoto in 1997, the UK has accepted a legally binding target of reducing emissions of a basket of greenhouse gases by 12.5 % below 1990 levels by 2008-2012 as its contribution to the European target of an 8 % reduction. The UK has also set a domestic goal of a 20 % reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2010. The Scottish Executive is committed to Scotland making a full contribution to these goals (see paragraphs 12 - 13). Unless greenhouse gas emissions are brought under control, these will have severe and unpredictable global impacts which, in turn, can lead to significant effects at a local level in Scotland within the life span of today's population.
8. Burning fossil fuels is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. Reducing the use of fossil fuels and replacing them with non-fossil fuel sources is a key part of the Scottish Executive commitment to reducing such emissions. Increasing the proportion of energy supply from renewables is seen as an important contribution to meeting the UK targets for reducing greenhouse gases.
9. The long established hydro schemes in Scotland account for around 11% of Scotland's requirement for electricity. In addition, over the last 6 years, the development of new renewable energy projects has been undertaken under the Scottish Renewables Obligation (SRO), with a target of 150 MW of new capacity. This has worked through three successive statutory orders (SRO 1, 2 and 3) requiring Scotland's two public electricity suppliers to contract for specified amounts of new renewable generation capacity. The SRO is expected to deliver its overall target by 2002/03, meeting another 1.5% of Scotland's requirement for electricity, and resulting in a total of around 12.5% being met from renewable sources.
10. In February 2000, the UK Government reaffirmed its commitment to the development of renewables and to ensuring they make an increasing contribution to the UK's energy supplies. The Government announced that it will work towards the aim of achieving 10 % of the UK's electricity supply from renewables by around 2010 through a new renewables obligation, subject to the cost to consumers being acceptable. Meeting that target will require the UK to increase its use of renewable energy by around 5% from the level expected in 2002-3. A further priority is to ensure that after 2010, the share of renewables can continue to rise, which will assist in limiting greenhouse gas emissions to a sustainable level.
11. The new obligation will be placed on all electricity suppliers. It will be for them to decide how best to meet it in terms of types of renewable technology used, siting of projects and the additional cost of the electricity generated, which will be passed on to electricity consumers.
12. Scotland possesses a large part of the UK potential for producing energy from wind, hydro, and biomass sources (including energy crops and forestry). There are also opportunities for energy from waste and landfill gas developments. In the longer term, wave power and offshore wind may provide further sources of renewable energy. The Scottish Ministers have indicated that they are committed to the development and promotion of such renewable sources of electricity generation and wish Scotland to make an important contribution to the UK's Climate Change Programme and the renewables target. As part of the Scottish Climate Change Programme, the Scottish Executive proposes to increase the expected figure of 12.5% by a further 5% by 2010. This will be achieved by implementation of a new Renewables (Scotland) Obligation Order in relation to grid-linked renewable energy developments. Its target will be to achieve a similar increase in renewable energy use in Scotland to that for the UK as a whole, taking the Scottish total to around 17.5%.
13. It is expected that much of the new capacity needed by electricity suppliers to meet the Renewables (Scotland) Obligation will come from onshore wind (wind farms), and to a lesser extent hydro, waste-to-energy and biomass developments. Offshore wind and wave power developments may also have a limited contribution to make, but are expected to be dependent on the availability of special funding. Although outwith the scope of the new Obligation, stand alone developments, such as individual wind turbines and photo voltaic panels on commercial and domestic buildings, have a role to play in support of the Climate Change Programme.
Electricity Grid System
14. Map 1 below shows the Scottish electricity transmission grid. Currently there are capacity constraints in the grid to the north and west a notional line between roughly the Clyde, Perth and Dundee. While limited development can be accommodated to the north, it is expected that the grid, in advance of upgrading and additional capacity, will be able to accommodate renewable energy developments more easily in and close to the Central Belt and southern Scotland. This may change in the medium / longer term if the transmission system is upgraded in the north and west areas.
15. A study undertaken in 1993 of the Scottish renewables resource identified network constraints that could prevent the full exploitation of that resource. In parallel with the revision of planning guidance on renewable energy, the Executive has put in place an updating of the 1993 report and a re-assessment of the network capacity. This work should be completed by the end of the Summer, 2000.
16. Grid constraints suggest new generation capacity is likely to be sited reasonably close to major centres of population, and thus electricity demand. Although not an overriding factor, this points towards much new renewables capacity being located within or not too distant from the Central Belt and other larger population centres.
policy guidelines: general principles
17. The first of three Orders (SRO1) under the Scottish Renewables Obligation was introduced in 1993 and it has been followed by two further Orders. A number of renewable energy developments in Scotland have received planning approval. As at December 1999, as a result of planning consents :
- the most significant contributions from SRO projects have come from wind power, followed by landfill gas and hydro:
- 34 of the 40 renewable energy developments for which planning permission has been sought have been approved - 85% of all applications, (the figure for all planning applications is 90%);
- for wind energy developments only 10 out of 15 developments have been approved - a 66% rate of approval, although this amounted to 78% of capacity.
Failure to obtain planning permission, particularly for wind farms, has been a contributory factor in limiting the expansion of renewable energy development in Scotland. There is no single identifiable factor behind the lower rate of approval for renewable energy projects.
18. In support of the UK Government's commitment to renewable energy and its contribution to the climate change programme, more renewable energy developments are required to meet UK international obligations. The Scottish Ministers wish to see the planning system play its full part by making positive provision for such developments. The planning system should aim to facilitate and encourage new renewable energy developments by :
- providing positively for renewable energy developments in Structure and Local Plans;
- ensuring that development control decisions are taken efficiently, consistently and with due weight given to national and international climate change policy commitments and obligations;
- safeguarding sites with potential for renewable energy projects:
while at the same time :
- meeting the statutory requirement to protect designated areas and species and habitats of international and national importance for their natural heritage interest from inappropriate forms of development, and ensuring that the location and design of approved developments minimises environmental impact;
- protecting designated areas and structures of built heritage of international and national importance from inappropriate forms of development and ensuring that the location and design of approved development minimises environmental impact; and;
- minimising the effects on local communities including the early restoration of sites, to a standard acceptable to the planning authority, should operations cease permanently.
19. Accordingly, renewable energy projects should be permitted unless it can be demonstrated that they would :
- be significantly detrimental to the landscape character of National Scenic Areas and National Parks;
- have a significant adverse effect on sites/areas identified for the protection of species and habitats of international and national importance i.e. SSSIs, SPAs, SACs and Ramsar sites. Outwith these designated areas, protected species and habitats must still be looked after and species listed as being of international importance must be given special attention (see also NPPG 14 : Natural Heritage);
- interfere significantly with areas/structures identified for the protection their built heritage interest;
- have a significant detrimental effect on the quality of life of people living nearby.
Specific policy considerations for individual technology types are given in paragraphs 32 to 64.
20. The planning system should encourage renewable energy development and not place unnecessary obstacles in its way. The majority of schemes will provide a small but valuable contribution to renewables output and to energy requirements both locally and nationally. The level of output from a particular scheme should not be a planning consideration, although there may be relevant environmental factors which lead Councils or the Scottish Ministers to conclude that the scale of development should be modified in some way.
21. Like any development proposal, including those for conventional energy production, renewable energy projects have the potential to raise environmental concerns. Many will be in rural areas and their construction will introduce a new element into the landscape. Most landscapes will have been subject to incremental change over many years and should be able, with appropriate controls, to accommodate renewable energy developments without significant adverse impact.
22. Renewable energy developments should generally be considered as acceptable uses in urban areas where, in appropriate circumstances, they could provide opportunities to bring brownfield sites, including semi-rural areas which have been affected by historic mineral extraction activity, back into beneficial use. A presumption in favour of such developments should be reflected in development plan policies.
23. While an increasing number of renewable energy developments in Scotland are likely to be wind farms, development plan policies should recognise the full range of renewable energy sources, their differing characteristics, locational requirements and the potential for exploiting them within appropriate environmental safeguards. Each authority should consider how it can support renewable energy generation schemes through its development plan policies and development control decisions.
24. Planning policies should also guide developers on how to minimise the impact of proposed developments on the local environment by careful consideration of their scale, location and design. Planning policies that rule out the development of all or specific types of renewable energy technologies will be inappropriate without sufficient reasoned justification. On the contrary, the wider environmental and economic benefits of such developments should be a significant consideration, particularly where the impact on the local environment is not likely to be significant.
25. Renewable energy developments will have a contribution to make in support of the Scottish Executive's policy to encourage rural development. While individual renewable energy developments are unlikely to provide large numbers of jobs, particularly during the operational period, such jobs can be significant in rural areas where job opportunities are limited. A mature Scottish market for renewable energy technology has the potential to establish and support manufacturing activity, contributing to the local economy by providing local employment and also offering export potential.
Environmental Impact Assessment
26. Where a proposed renewable energy development is likely to have significant effects on the environment and it falls to the planning system to determine, the Town and Country Planning Environmental Impact Assessment (Scotland) Regulations 1999 require the potential effects to be systematically evaluated in a formal Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). Proposals that fall to be authorised under sections 36 & 37 of the Electricity Act 1989, will be considered under the Electricity Works (Assessment of Environmental Effects) (Scotland) Regulations.
27. Planning authorities and developers should consider at an early stage whether EIA should be undertaken. Many developers are aware of the value of early data collection in order to facilitate effective site selection. Further guidance is set out in SEDD Circular 15/1999 (in particular Annex A : Indicative Thresholds and Criteria for Identification of Schedule 2 Development Requiring EIA), and advice in PAN 58 Environmental Impact Assessment. Advice on the application of environmental impact assessment to specific renewable energy technologies is given in PAN 45 : Renewable Energy Technologies.
28. In preparing detailed proposals, developers should be guided by local authority development plan policies, this NPPG, and other relevant national planning policies. These should also inform development control decisions by planning authorities. Other relevant national planning policy guidance includes :
- Archaeology and Planning : NPPG 5 ;
- Planning and Waste Management : NPPG 10
- Coastal Planning : NPPG 13
- Natural Heritage : NPPG 14
- Rural Development : NPPG 15 ;
- Planning and the Historic Environment : NPPG 18 ;
- Development in the Countryside and Green Belts : SDD Circular 24/1985; and
- Agricultural Land : SDD Circular 18/1987.
29. The underlying principle of all NPPGs is environmental soundness. Some NPPGs are intended to encourage development, while others are intended to safeguard resources and features of national and international importance. Policies in the latter group do not necessarily preclude renewable energy developments, but development proposals should avoid the potential for affecting significantly the character, quality and the integrity of a designated resource. Given the protection EU and UK legislation affords to specified species and habitats outwith designated areas, it is also important to ensure that existing environmental assets are taken into account. A local biodiversity action plan can give useful guidance. In many cases through careful and sensitive siting and design of renewable energy developments, the impact can be significantly reduced.
Tourism and Recreation
30. In many areas of Scotland, tourism and recreation support local economies and to varying degrees such activities depend on the quality of the environment, in particular the landscape. This does not mean that renewable energy developments are incompatible with tourism and recreation interests. Sensitive siting can successfully minimise adverse impacts, particularly visual impacts. Moreover, some renewable energy developments, such as wind farms or hydro schemes, may themselves be of interest to tourists and their existence can be compatible with recreational pursuits such as hill walking.
Proximity to Settlements
31. The siting of renewable energy developments can sometimes raise concerns among local residents. Provided the potential disturbance and impacts can be mitigated satisfactorily, this need not automatically prevent development. However, particular care will be required. It is important that the detailed proposals, including access arrangements, address the implications for people living nearby and ensure that, by careful location and sensitive design and in the standards of operations, their amenity is not adversely affected significantly. Developers can help by actively informing local residents about their proposals and likely effects. Development plans should set out the criteria to be adopted to reduce the impacts to a satisfactory level.
additional policy guidelines for individual technologies
32. The following paragraphs provide additional guidance on the main technologies which planning authorities in Scotland should consider when preparing development plans and determining planning applications. The individual technologies are discussed in more detail in the associated PAN 45.
33. Scotland has one of the best wind regimes in Europe (see Map 2), which represents a very significant, albeit under-utilised, renewable energy resource. This is likely to be the technology most widely used in the expansion of renewable energy in Scotland. The capacity of the transmission and grid system, (see paragraph 14 and Map 1), will be an important influence on the siting of future wind farms. Maps 1 and 2 together indicate the areas which, for technical reasons, will be particularly suitable for the siting of wind energy development.
34. In addition to these technical criteria, a range of other considerations will influence the location and siting of wind farms.
35. The siting, layout and design of wind farms will be conditioned by a number of technical, practical, economic and environmental considerations which seek to balance factors such as wind capture, turbulence, access and power line linkage with the impact on heritage resources and local communities.
36. Scotland has a variety of landscapes. Some are able to accommodate wind farms more easily than others, for example those semi-rural areas of the Central Belt which have been affected by historic mineral extraction activity. A cautious approach however should be adopted in relation to particular landscapes which are rare or valued, such as National Scenic Areas and proposed National Parks and their wider setting, where it may be more difficult to accommodate wind turbines without detriment to natural heritage and tourism interests.
37. Scottish Natural Heritage has carried out a comprehensive national programme of Landscape Character Assessment. A total of 29 separate assessments have also been completed in partnership with local authorities and other organisations. Together these assessments document the variety of Scotland's landscape types. They cover all of the council areas in Scotland. While not directed specifically at potential wind farm developments, within such broad areas there will be areas of varying landscape characteristics with different implications for wind farm development. Landscape character assessment therefore provides a starting point for the location of new wind farms, but developers and local authorities will also need to evaluate carefully other impacts and effects. Where appropriate local authorities should provide a local interpretation. It is also important that developers enter into dialogue with SNH at an early stage to clarify the capacity of specific areas to accommodate such developments.
38. Turbines in wind farms are likely to be tall - tower height 30-70 metres, rotors 15-20 metres - and will usually be located on high open land. Developers should seek to ensure that through good design the visual impact is appropriate to the location. Given their height, turbines will likely be visible to a varying extent, and unless areas protected for their landscape quality are affected, it will be unrealistic to seek to conceal them. Domestic turbines will be smaller. The visual effect will be dependent on the distance over which a wind farm may be viewed, different weather conditions, the character of the development and the landscape and nature of the visibility. The following is a general guide to the effect which distance has on the perception of the development in an open landscape :
Up to 2 kms
Likely to be a dominant feature
Only prominent in clear visibility - seen as part of the wider landscape
Only seen in very clear visibility - a minor element in the landscape
39. Wind farms are distinctive and their visual impact will be affected by the number of turbines as well as by land form and landscape features. Public preference is for a wind farm to be controlled and contained within a landscape, so as to appear less dominating. There is however no preferred wind farm layout; different layouts will be appropriate in different circumstances. For example, research suggests that concentrated wind farms can normally appear acceptable as a single, isolated feature in a remote, open landscape, while rows of turbines may be more appropriate in an agricultural landscape with formal field boundaries. Although wind farms may be complex, they should not appear confusing in relation to the character of the landscape. Ideally they should be separate from surrounding features to create a simple image. These are, however, generalised findings and the design of each development must be appropriate to its site.
40. The style and colour of turbine may also be relevant. Research suggests that solid turbine towers appear less complex than lattice, and tapering towers are generally regarded as being more elegant than cylindrical towers. In terms of colour, white or off-white is generally preferred, but other colours may be acceptable in appropriate circumstances. A matt surface is required to reduce the reflection of light. However, colour can not be a substitute for good siting and design. Ancillary elements, such as access tracks, power lines, fencing, buildings and anemometers, raise issues which also need to be addressed.
41. The cumulative impact of a number of neighbouring developments may also be a relevant consideration. The nature and character of the location, and the landscape in which a development is located, will in part determine the acceptability or otherwise of siting proposals close together. Moreover, it would be appropriate in rural areas to provide for a separation zone between wind farms and nearby small settlements or dwellings. The separation distance will be dependent on rotor size, but as a general guide a distance equating to 10 rotor diameters should enable sufficient care to be taken to address issues such as "shadow flicker" ie visual interference caused by movement of the rotor blades, and noise disturbance. In the context of amenity and driver distraction from shadow flicker, where appropriate, the view from nearby roads should be considered.
42. Modern turbines are not noisy. If there is sufficient distance between the turbines and noise-sensitive properties, no nuisance should arise. While British Standard BS4142 may be appropriate as a means of determining potential or actual perceived noise, the combined effect of turbines should be determined by reference to the particular character or sensitivity of the area. This should be assessed by reference to the nature and character of neighbouring or nearby developments. "The assessment & Rating of Noise from Wind Farms" ETSU for DTI September 1996 gives useful advice.
43. Wind turbines can raise specific considerations related to airfield flight paths and military aircraft flying areas, telecommunications (including television reception), "shadow flicker" and "driver distraction". However, these are predictable and careful site design can avoid them. In some cases it may be possible to introduce electronic solutions to avoid interference with TV reception.
Birds and Habitats
44. Although the impact of an appropriately designed and located wind farm on the local bird life should be minimal, some upland areas in Scotland are important for a variety of species some of which, protected under the EC Birds Directive, have been designated as Special Protection Areas (SPAs). These could represent potential constraints to wind farm development. The importance of complying with international and national conservation obligations must be recognised and wind farms should not adversely affect the integrity of the designated sites and areas identified by Ministers as potential SPAs. Protected species can range beyond these sites, but must still be protected outwith designated sites. From experience to date, the most common concern has been the risk of collision. However, the impacts will depend on a number of considerations such as, the particular species and numbers of birds, the nature of the bird flight and any relevant seasonal patterns. These factors have to be considered against the positioning and size of turbines, including the size of the area swept by the blades in relation to the air space used by the birds in the vicinity of the development. In addition, under the EC Habitats Directive, other species or habitats of special interest may be present.
45. Developers should, where appropriate, ask their ecological advisers to enter into early discussions with SNH about the presence and importance of species and habitats in or close to a designated area, where there could be potential problems. Discussions should assess how serious the problems are and the scope for taking ameliorative action or seeking alternative sites nearby.
46. Further policy guidance is set out in NPPG 14 : Planning and Natural Heritage and PAN 45 : Renewable Energy. Additionally, SNH, in consultation with the British Wind Energy Association, is preparing a "Methodology for Assessing the Effects of Wind Farms on Ornithological Interests". This will be of use to developers when estimating the potential impact of proposed developments on bird life.
47. Other possible considerations include :
- the proximity of turbines to public footpaths.
- access tracks to hill tops can have a visual impact due to cuttings, embankments and drainage channels. This can be minimised by careful route selection, layout, and appropriate surfacing materials. Managing problems of erosion and providing for reinstatement for vegetation along the track is essential.
- substation - visual impact will be reduced where it is built to a design and with materials characteristic of the landscape; it may require to be located separately from the wind farm.
- electricity connections - to avoid visual confusion, routing and design of power lines will require sensitive treatment; in special circumstances partial undergrounding can reduce the impact, but costs suggest this should not be the first option. Consent for overhead lines between the wind farm substation and the nearest point of access to the transmission / distribution grid must be applied for and obtained separately from planning permission, and there are separate procedures to deal with this under Section 37 of the Electricity Act 1989.
48. Accordingly, where the general policy principles in paragraphs 18 - 31 and the detailed considerations in paragraphs 33 - 47 are addressed in a satisfactory manner, new wind farm developments and individual turbines should be permitted.
49. New hydro schemes will generally be small-scale run-of-river developments, less than 10 MW, sometimes in remote rural areas. But while such locations are potentially sensitive, this should not lead to a presumption against development. They have the potential not only to support the climate change programme, but also to support economic development in remote rural areas. Careful design of the scheme and ancillary buildings and facilities can successfully minimise effects on landscape character and wildlife. Some of the general issues relevant to hydro schemes are similar to those which apply to wind farms, but others are unique to hydro. Early dialogue with SNH is recommended.
50. The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) has a duty to promote the cleanliness of controlled waters and to conserve, so far as practicable, water resources. Consultation with SEPA should, therefore, be undertaken for all proposed hydro developments, both small scale projects covered by planning legislation and larger schemes authorised under the Electricity Act 1989. The potential effect of construction works on water quality should be borne in mind. Under the Control of Pollution Act 1974 (as amended), it is an offence to cause or knowingly permit any poisonous, noxious or polluting material or any solid waste matter to enter inland or coastal waters.
51. Many of the considerations associated with areas valued for their nature conservation interest will also apply to fishery interests where the economic benefits of tourism can also be a significant factor. Care is required with the protection of all species of fish, particularly migratory species such as salmon and sea trout. Consultation with the local District Salmon Fishery Board (DSFB) should be undertaken immediately a hydro scheme is proposed and throughout the planning process. The local DSFB should be consulted on fish passes and exclusion devices in their area as requirements are generally site specific. Further advice on fish passes and screens can also be obtained from the Scottish Executive Rural Affairs Department (SERAD) or the Fisheries Committee (see PAN 45).
Aquatic Habitats and Species
52. In designing a hydro scheme, account needs to be taken of the fact that different species will be affected in different ways and that some species such as the freshwater pearl mussel are protected under the EC Habitats Directive. Discussion with SNH will provide guidance on the species which require to be considered in a particular location. Experience has shown that by careful design it is possible to reconcile hydro schemes with conservation of the natural heritage.
53. A number of other detailed considerations will also be relevant in the assessment of new hydro proposals. These will include, for example, whether the proposed development is for a run-of-river or a storage scheme requiring the construction of a dam and reservoir; the scale of the development in the landscape; the effect of enclosed or open channels; the scale, design and materials of the turbine building; impacts on habitats, and the location and effect of access tracks, substation and power lines.
54. Accordingly, where the general policy principles in paragraphs 18 - 31 and the detailed considerations in paragraphs 49 - 53 are addressed in a satisfactory manner, hydro developments should be permitted.
Biomass - Energy crops and Forestry Wastes; and Waste Combustion
55. The characteristics of the plant associated with these technologies are sufficiently similar to allow policy to be based on the same considerations. In general the buildings look like agricultural or small-scale industrial buildings. The significant matters to be considered are visual impact, noise, traffic generation and pollution control.
56. Standards should be similar to applications for most types of industrial development. Given the need for proximity to sources of combustible materials, proposals using energy crops and forestry and farm wastes can generally be considered appropriate uses in the countryside, while proposals for waste combustion are appropriate in suitable urban locations. A site will normally require a significant amount of space for storage of raw material. The solid residue storage / disposal should not represent a major problem. Careful consideration should be given to chimney design and position to minimise the visual impact as well as complying with pollution control requirements.
57. Potential sources of noise and vibration are likely to come from :
- vehicular movements;
- the plant and equipment;
- materials handling operations.
The potential for nuisance depends upon the process characteristics and the proximity and location of nearby noise-sensitive properties. Further general planning advice is included in PAN 56 Planning and Noise.
58. The number of traffic movements will depend on the plant size and acceptability on the nature and capacity of the local road network and the land use characteristics of the area. The development should be located as close as practicable to its sources of supply to reduce transport distances.
59. Depending on the scale of the activities, processes involving incineration require either an Integrated Pollution Control authorisation from SEPA or a Local Authority Air Pollution Control authorisation from the council in whose area the plant is located.
60. Accordingly, in addition to the general policy considerations in paragraphs 18 - 31, specific policy for energy crops and forestry, waste combustion and farm wastes should be based on the following :
- Proposals for the generation of energy from biomass (energy crops and forestry wastes) and farm wastes should normally be acceptable on appropriate sites in rural areas.
- Proposals for the generation of energy from waste combustion should normally be acceptable on appropriate sites where the amenity of an area is not affected significantly.
Waste-to-Energy - Anaerobic Digestion and Landfill Gas
61. As well as supporting the climate change programme, these developments have the potential to support other national and international policies and priorities, including the National Waste Strategy and the EC Bathing Waters Directive. The characteristics of the plant associated with these technologies are sufficiently similar to allow policy to be based on the same considerations. The significant matters to be considered are visual impact, noise, traffic generation and pollution control.
62. Power plant using sewage gas digesters are likely to be installed at existing waste water treatment works where the additional tanks and buildings are considered acceptable. Energy recovery will take place at or close to an existing landfill site that is generating sufficient gas.
63. Accordingly, in addition to the general policy considerations in paragraphs 18 - 31, specific policy for sewage gas and landfill gas projects should be based on the following:
- uncontrolled emissions of gases from waste water treatment works and landfill sites are damaging to the environment, and controlled flaring of gas is wasteful of the energy potential. The control of emissions through energy recovery schemes should be preferred wherever practicable.
- gas from sewage and landfill sites is potentially hazardous; safety should be of paramount concern in the establishment and operation of gas control and energy recovery plant.
64. Although limited at present, over time there could be opportunities for further wave power developments. The majority of developments will require an onshore coastal location, being constructed as part of the rock face. In addition to the general policy considerations in paragraphs 18 - 31, the policy on Coastal Planning set out in NPPG 13 should also be taken in to account.
65. The planning system, both in terms of development plan policies and development control decisions, has a significant role to play in supporting the UK Government's policy for the development of renewable energy. Irrespective of size, all developments have a contribution to make in meeting the nation's energy requirements but in a way that reduces greenhouse gas emissions and supports the UK and Scottish climate change programme being promoted in Scotland by the Scottish Ministers.
66. Development plans should set out a positive framework, guiding developers to locations where renewable energy developments are likely to be permitted, subject to full environmental and amenity standards being met. Additionally, they should set out clearly the criteria against which renewable energy developments will be assessed as a sound basis for sensitive, effective and consistent decision-making in relation to individual applications. The impacts of stand-alone developments e.g. single wind turbines will not be so significant, and development plan policies should reflect the differences. Likewise, the information sought by Councils in support of planning applications for stand-alone developments should not be as extensive and detailed as that required for larger scale developments to be linked to the national grid.
Structure and Local Plans
67. Having regard to the considerations in this NPPG, structure plans should make positive provision for renewable energy developments as part of the Council's or Joint Authorities' strategy. Policies for renewable energy should indicate how they relate to other structure plan policies, including nationally and internationally important environmental factors and where appropriate other factors of local significance. Where policies give due weight to environmental impacts they should set out the criteria to be adopted to ensure that renewable energy developments have an acceptable environmental effect, thus enabling renewable energy developments to take place.
68. Where planning authorities consider that the policies and proposals for renewable energy developments need detailed expression or application to specific sites in the light of renewable development opportunities in a particular area, local plans should be reviewed to reflect the commitment and support for renewable energy provision. They should, where appropriate, identify sites for future developments and safeguarding. Where this is not feasible, more broadly defined areas of search should provide a guide for the industry on the locations where development might be most appropriate. Policies should also guide developers on the mitigation of significant environmental effects and provide additional support for the development control framework.
69. In summary development plan policies for renewable energy developments should :
support the Scottish Ministers' commitment to renewable energy and provide positively for its development;
- define search areas suitable for wind and other renewable energy developments or, where appropriate, specific sites in local plans;
- safeguard, where appropriate, areas for renewable energy projects;
- indicate areas or sites where, for environmental reasons, proposals for renewable energy development would only be considered acceptable in exceptional circumstances;
- guide developers on the mitigation of significant environmental effects;
- provide a clear development control framework.
The locational requirements and potential environmental impacts of specific renewable energy developments are described more fully in the associated PAN 45.
70. In seeking to reconcile renewable energy with other development, as well as environmental and conservation interests, the following factors are particularly relevant when assessing individual applications for renewable energy developments :
- the type of renewable energy project proposed;
- visual impact and compatibility with the landscape;
- means of connection to the electricity distribution grid (above or under ground);
- potential pollution of the air, land and water;
- effect on statutorily designated sites and areas;
- traffic generation;
- decommissioning requirements (if appropriate).
71. Decisions on planning applications must be made in accordance with the development plan unless other material considerations indicate otherwise. Relevant and up-to-date development plans, which contain positive policies on renewable energy developments, are therefore important for enabling effective and consistent handling of planning applications. The guidance in this NPPG is also an important material consideration.
72. Where there are objections to a particular proposal, the planning authority will need to address their planning relevance. Where planning concerns have been raised, the applicant will need to show how these can be overcome or how any detrimental environmental effects can be mitigated, where appropriate advancing any material arguments which might outweigh objections to the proposed development. Given the Government's commitment to promoting renewable energy generation, the need for such developments per se should not be a material planning consideration.
73. SODD Circular 4/1998 sets out policy and guidance on the use of conditions in planning permissions. Additionally, SODD Circular 12/1996 covers the use of planning agreements.
74. In view of the substantial expenditure involved in establishing a renewable energy development, temporary permissions will rarely be justified. However, a condition could be imposed to the effect that if, for example, development such as an energy from waste development or wind turbines are not in operation and producing electricity for a specified period, the development would require to be dismantled and the land restored to the satisfaction of the planning authority.
75. The size and scale of stand-alone developments attached, for example, to farms or business premises, can be of a much smaller scale than commercial and other renewable energy developments. For example, the rotors of a small wind turbine may be no more than 2 metres in diameter. The difference in scale leads to the visual and other impacts being significantly less. Consequently the information sought by planning authorities from a developer should be tailored to the scale of the proposal and should be less onerous than that required for other proposals to be linked to the grid. Likewise, not all the considerations in this NPPG may be relevant to the consideration of such proposals.
76. Under the Town and Country Planning (Notification of Applications) (Scotland) Direction 1997 (as amended), where a planning authority proposes to grant planning permission for a renewable energy project that raises specific issues of national importance, the authority may be required to notify the Scottish Ministers who may call in the application for their determination.
77. It is intended that the specific requirement for the notification of all wind farm proposals of 10 or more turbines will be withdrawn once the final version of this NPPG is published.
78. This draft NPPG, as well as other NPPGs and other Planning Series documents, is available on the Scottish Executive web-site at www.scotland.gov.uk/planning/