HC Deb 06 March 2000 vol 345 cc461-2W
Angela Smith

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what steps he is taking to promote a strategic approach to planning for renewable energy development; and if he will make a statement. [113479]

Mr. Raynsford

A positive, strategic approach to planning for renewable energy is essential to help to deliver the Government's targets and goals for renewable energy and climate change, which are central to achieving sustainable development, while continuing to protect the landscape. This was underlined in "New and Renewable Energy: Prospects for the 21st Century: Conclusions in Response to the Public Consultation", published by my right hon. Friend, the Minister for Energy and Competitiveness in Europe, on 1 February 2000.

In order to promote this strategic approach from the regional level downwards, the Government Offices for the Regions are initiating work to prepare regional assessments and targets for renewable energy provision based upon—and, where necessary, updating—existing resource studies. On 9 February 2000, DETR published "Guidance on Preparing Regional Sustainable Development Frameworks". The guidance indicated that the Government hope that the frameworks will draw upon this work and elaborate a regional approach to renewable energy, including regional targets which flow from the assessments of each region's capacity to generate electricity from a range of different sources. The Government would like to see frameworks in place in all regions by the end of 2000.

The frameworks will work alongside Regional Planning Guidance (RPG) and Regional Development Agencies' Economic Strategies in promoting sustainable development. Thus we envisage RPG taking forward in land-use terms a region's strategy for delivering renewable energy targets by defining broad locations for renewable energy development and setting criteria to help local authorities select suitable sites in their plans. We would encourage regional planning bodies to set targets in RPG, where sensible to do so, for the structure plan and unitary development plan areas within the region consistent with the regional targets provided by the regional sustainable development frameworks. Advice on this will be set out in the final version of the revised "Planning Policy Guidance (PPG) note 11: Regional Planning". This will be published shortly.

Together with the national planning policy guidance in "PPG 22: Renewable Energy", RPG—as taken forward through structure plans and Part I unitary development plans—will provide a strategic framework for policies and proposals for renewable energy development in local plans, including the identification in those plans of suitable sites. This, in turn, will feed through to decisions on individual planning applications.

More positive planning at regional and local levels will contribute to greater public familiarity with, and acceptance of, prospective renewable energy developments. It remains important, however, for operators to prepare the ground with local authorities, environmental organisations and local people before formal planning applications are submitted and to develop proposals in consultation with them.

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