HC Deb 15 June 1999 vol 333 cc86-7W
Ann Keen

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what is his policy on land-use planning and renewable energy in England. [87315]

Mr. Caborn

The Government's policy is set out in Planning Policy Guidance note 22, published in February 1993. This makes clear that in formulating the policies and proposals in their development plans, and in making decisions on applications for specific renewable energy developments, local planning authorities need to consider both the immediate impact on the local environment and the wider contribution to reducing emissions of greenhouse gases. They need to take account of the Government's policy for renewable energy sources along with policies for Green Belts, conservation areas and industrial and commercial development, for example.

In October 1998, the Department published a good practice guide on "Planning for Sustainable Development" and sent copies to all local planning authorities. The guide includes advice on renewable energy. It underlines the importance of renewable energy, developing a strategy at regional and local levels for the provision of renewable energy development and having clear policies and criteria in plans to help decide individual applications. The Department has held a series of seminars for local planning authorities and others to disseminate the messages of the guide.

On 30 March 1999, my right hon. Friend the Minister for Energy and Industry published a consultation document, "New and Renewable Energy: Prospects for the 21 Century". This confirmed that the Government are working towards a target of renewable energy providing 10 per cent. of UK electricity supplies as soon as possible and that they hope to achieve this by 2010. It also underlined the important role of renewables in enabling the UK to meet its legally binding target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 12.5 per cent. (compared to 1990) by 2008–12 and its goal of reducing emissions of carbon dioxide by 20 per cent. by 2010.

The consultation document indicated that the Government are reviewing the contribution which the planning system has to make to delivering their target for renewable energy and noted that widespread adoption of renewable of energy will not be possible unless the public is prepared to accept projects in their locality. The consultation document also acknowledged that concerns have sometimes been expressed that the current Non-Fossil Fuel Obligation (NFFO) scheme does not address, e.g. environmental aspects, sufficiently effectively and that future support mechanisms or obligations will need to deliver good quality schemes.

The planning system has an important role in helping to deliver the Government's targets and goals for renewable energy and climate change. It is clear that we need a positive strategic approach to planning for renewable energy from regional level downwards, with appropriate provision made for development in authorities' plans. There needs to be an open and constructive dialogue between prospective operators, local planning authorities and local people about identifying suitable sites with sensitivity and care. We shall build on these themes in considering what further practical steps may be needed to ensure that the planning system enables renewable energy provision to contribute to the UK's sustainable energy needs while continuing to protect the countryside.