Public engagement for sub-20MW wind turbine proposals – good practice guidance

Good practice guidance for local authorities, developers, landowners, community representatives and other relevant stakeholders on public engagement for wind turbine proposals; principally below 20MW generating capacity.

4. Research and Other Good Practice

In addition to good practice guidance, there is a wealth of research and related information available on engagement practices which may be of value to those who are seeking to develop a public engagement strategy.

4.1 Dr Mhairi Aitken, Dr Claire Haggett and Dr David Rudolph - Wind Farms Community Engagement Good Practice Review [17]

4.1.1 The University of Edinburgh and ClimateXChange has undertaken research into good practice on community engagement on wind farms, published in August 2014. Its main focus is on engagement carried out by wind farm developers with communities. The research evaluates current good practice for engaging people in decision making about on and offshore wind farms looking at a mix of methods used in European countries.

4.1.2 The report states that there is no 'one-size-fits-all' approach to community consultation and identifies the importance and need for:

  • Wide-ranging and innovative methods of engagement;
  • Methods which facilitate dialogue (rather than just transmitting information);
  • Instances where action is taken on the basis of responses gathered;
  • Measures to keep engagement going through all stages including approval and construction;
  • Using a wide ranging definition of an 'affected' public; and
  • Identifying and implementing tangible benefits.

4.1.3 Better quality engagement should be carried out rather than implying any need for more community engagement. A key recommendation is that consultation methods used should be flexible in terms of timing, and provide accessible channels through which community members can respond. This should ensure that community engagement is responsive and meaningful to participants.

4.1.4 The research report raises many valid issues that should be considered further and makes useful recommendations that can be implemented by stakeholders. The research states that many developers can and already do go over and above normal engagement requirements.

4.1.5 The main focus for the research was on larger wind farm developments rather than smaller and/or single turbine developments. Whilst many of the recommendations in the report could also apply to smaller developments some may not be entirely compatible or proportionate to the situation. It also confirms that engagement must be meaningful, flexible, proportionate and tailored to suit the local situation and that there are existing good practice ways to achieve this.

4.2 Other Examples of Planning Consultation Guidance for Wind Energy

A combination of other discretionary good practice principles are applied to wind energy developments across the UK.

4.2.1 Scotland: Community and Renewable Energy Scheme ( CARES) [18]

In Scotland, both community and rural business applicants to Scottish Government CARES pre-planning loans for wind energy proposals must meet consultation requirements to ensure that those residents living closest to the proposed development are made aware of these proposals. In the stage 2 application for CARES assistance there is a section as follows:-

"Neighbour Notification (wind projects) - Please detail any neighbour notification that has taken place. It is a requirement of the CARES scheme that all properties within 1km of the turbine are notified in writing with details about the project. You should also feedback responses to the CARES team to allow local views to be understood. Guidance is available via your Development Officer."

4.2.2 Wales: Technical Advice Note 8 [19] : Planning for Renewable Energy (2005)

This document states that " Developers, in consultation with local planning authorities, should take an active role in engaging with the local community on renewable energy proposals. This should include pre-application discussion and provision of background information on the renewable energy technology that is proposed. There is no defined threshold for development scale where consultation is required for wind energy development."

4.2.3 Wales: The Protocol for Public Engagement with Proposed Wind Energy Developments in Wales [20]

This was produced in 2007 by the Renewables Advisory Board and Department of Trade and Industry ( DTI). This takes forward good practice principles and generic approaches to public engagement. It applies them specifically to proposed wind farm developments and also seeks wider, advance commitment to them from developers and other stakeholders, alongside the local planning authority.

In instances where multiple developments are proposed, the need for effective public engagement is considered likely to be greater; there would be value in developers and Local Planning Authorities considering opportunities for co-operation with one another in addition to the approaches outlined within the Protocol. The document sets out specific protocol that a range of stakeholders in the planning process are expected to buy-in to.

4.2.3 Northern Ireland: ' Maximising Community Outcomes From Wind Energy Developments ' [21]

The Fermanagh Trust published this report in January 2012. It explored the opportunities for communities to engage with commercial onshore wind energy development. The report was funded and supported by Northern Ireland's Building Change Trust and makes a series of recommendations for the consideration of the Northern Ireland Assembly on wind energy planning.

The report identifies the importance of effective community engagement in working with local communities. It suggests implementing a well-designed proactive programme which seeks out and responds to community issues. Community engagement should not be solely focused on the planning process but throughout the life cycle of the project.

The report argues that such engagement should be based on models of good practice and include post-construction relationships re: educational benefits etc. It involves working with all relevant stakeholders to inform, listen to and consider views in order to develop the best possible initiative and to ensure that proposed developments are successful and welcomed by the community.

4.2.4 European Union: Good Practice in reconciling Wind energy with Environmental and Community Interests [22] ( GP Wind)

This document was launched in August 2010 and ran until October 2012, and was supported by the Scottish Government. GP WIND was designed to demonstrate and disseminate good practice from EU countries to target audiences across Europe. It provides a range of tools which can be used by industry, developers, European, national and local policy makers, regulatory authorities, environmental agencies and groups and local communities to improve policy and guidance, as well as the process and practice of dealing with applications for new renewable energy projects.

The common methodology has ensured that the good practice focuses on solving practical problems and is transferable despite differences in geography and administrative systems. Specific guidance is identified on the website on involvement with the community [23] . This site contains further information that could be considered in relation to wind energy development.

4.2.5 WISE Power [24]

WISE Power project aims to increase local awareness and participation in the planning and implementation of wind power projects. It aims to address social concerns about wind energy and has a strong focus on alternative measures of funding - such as community and cooperative funding of wind farms - that may have an impact on empowering the local communities and enhancing social engagement.

4.3 PAS [25] - SP=EED™ Verification

4.3.1 SP=EED is PAS's free practical guide to effective engagement in planning. SP=EED is referred to in the Scottish Government's Planning Advice Note ( PAN) 3/2010 as a benchmarking tool for community engagement in planning. SP=EED develops an understanding of three broad levels of engagement using eight defined criteria.

4.3.2 PAS's SP=EED Verification is a two part programme which certifies an individual's competence in using the SP= EED approach to delivering engagement in planning and demonstrates that participants have completed a written reflective learning assessment:

  • give public assurance that engagement is being done to an appropriate level and to the highest standard
  • allow individuals to develop a greater understanding of SP= EED and its practical application
  • provide a greater understanding of the skills required for effective engagement
  • encourage the use of a range of creative and effective planning and engagement tools to suit different participatory approaches
  • allow individuals to have their engagement methods verified by independent planning and engagement professionals

4.3.3 There are two parts to SP= EED Verification:

  • Part 1: Understanding SP= EED: A 3.5 hour interactive workshop facilitated by PAS SP= EED Verification Trainers (after which participants receive the toolkits needed to complete part 2).
  • Part 2: Putting SP= EED into practice: A written reflective learning submission based on at least one engagement process that the participant has been involved in since Part 1. This will be verified by independent planning and engagement professionals and ratified by PAS.

4.3.4 On becoming SP- EED verified, individuals become part of a network and can advertise themselves as such.

Further information is available at:


Having taken into account existing practice and guidance, this section provides further advice on good practice in public engagement on wind turbines for each of the key parties who are involved in the process. Overall, it emphasises that consultation and engagement methods should be tailored to each particular location, and be responsive to local contexts and needs. No single approach would be effective in all circumstances. However there are consistent good practice methods and approaches that could provide better solutions to address the concerns raised by the petitioners that can be reflected in the good practice guidance.


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