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Bright Blue, the independent think tank for liberal conservatism, has today published a new report, Resilient neighbourhoods, powered by low-carbon energy, offering new policy recommendations to reform planning to facilitate an increase in the generation capacity of the three main renewable energy technologies in England: solar, onshore wind and offshore wind.

The report examines the impact of and recent changes to planning policy for solar, onshore wind and offshore wind, concluding that recent approaches have been inconsistent.

The report’s recommendations therefore flow from four key principles:

  1. The UK needs to pursue the best net zero energy transition, not simply the quickest.
  2. Planning processes need to strike an effective compromise between development delivery, community engagement and protecting the environment.
  3. The role of planning in energy decarbonisation varies depending on the decarbonisation pathways pursued, including the technologies prioritised and the balance between technical and behavioural solutions.
  4. The role of planning should not be viewed in isolation, but as interconnected with other public policy instruments.
Professor Richard Cowell, author of the report, commented:

“The UK has already achieved significant progress in decarbonising the power sector, but more still needs to be done. Replacing the ‘triple veto’ policy concerning onshore wind developments could lead to a renaissance of onshore wind in England.

“By 2050, our renewable energy generation capacity needs to increase by at least fivefold but in the last couple of years government efforts to facilitate this have been negligible. We need bold action.”

Ryan Shorthouse, Executive Chair of Bright Blue, commented:

“Britain urgently needs to get building – and renewable energy development, in particular, for both economic and environmental reasons. If we as a nation are going to make better long-term decisions for future generations, then ensuring there is much more renewable energy capacity – particularly onshore wind – is absolutely vital.”

This report recommends nine original policies to boost solar, onshore wind and offshore wind energy capacity:

1. Abolish the ‘triple veto’ planning policy for onshore wind from the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).

After the 2015 general election, the Government took forward its manifesto commitment to “halt the spread of subsidised onshore wind farms” and “change the law so that local people have the final say on wind farm applications”. Consequently, new non-statutory guidance for onshore wind was added to the NPPF. This, in effect, created a triple veto on planning policy requirements for onshore wind in the NPPF: proposals have to be located in an identified spatial zone, impacts have to be appropriately addressed, and proposals have to demonstrate community support.

We support the abolition of the triple veto due to the significant barriers it creates for the development of new onshore wind schemes in England.

For instance, there has been no obligation on Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) to identify areas suitable for onshore wind to support the first test, without which wind energy development is precluded. In addition, onshore wind farms over 50MW were taken out of the fast-tracked, central, NSIP consenting processes, and instead passed to local authorities to determine, subjecting them to the same three tests.

However, it is important to learn about the factors behind the social disquiet that precipitated the triple veto policy. There are legitimate concerns about location, impacts on place, and sense of fairness that shape public responses to individual applications. Moreover, the wind industry has changed since 2015. Larger turbines are now the industry standard, lowering costs but risking greater visual intrusion.

Rather than simply abolishing the triple veto and doing nothing else, planning policy for onshore wind should also be refined in line with the other recommendations of this report.

2. Enable Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) that seek to encourage more renewable energy development through proactive spatial zoning to access a pot of central government resources.

There is a need to adequately resource planners and other environmental regulators in order to ensure that the operation of planning processes for renewable energy investment is not needlessly delayed. Important measures to address this are being undertaken. For example, measures are coming forward through the Levelling Up and Regeneration Act 2023 to enable statutory environmental regulators to charge for their services in handling NSIPs. However, ways also need to be found to channel more resources to LPAs, many of which may be looking to handle large numbers of lower-scale applications. 

This should not be excessively costly – according to the Royal Town Planning Institute, in 2020-21, net expenditure by planning authorities was just £480 million, which is only around 0.4% of the total expenditure by English local authorities. 

One mechanism to achieve better resourcing of LPAs should be to enable those LPAs that seek to encourage more renewable energy development through proactive spatial zoning to access a pot of public resources. In order to avoid a time-costly bidding process, resources from said pot could be accessed by LPAs automatically if they fulfil certain criteria surrounding the promotion of renewable energy. Those resources could be an extension of the existing Planning Skills Delivery Fund – a £24 million grant from the DLUHC to help local authorities with the implementation of the reforms in the 2023 Levelling Up and Regeneration Act. Such resourcing could prioritise those LPAs with significant potential for renewable energy generation and which have considerable need and desire to coordinate the exploitation of this capacity.

In the 2023 Autumn Statement, the Government already committed a modest £5 million of extra funding for the Planning Skills Delivery Fund to target planning application backlogs, therefore there already exists a precedent for more targeted extensions to the Fund, but, ideally, central government subsidy of LPAs should be more extensive.

3. Institute a minimum level of community benefits at £5,000 per MW per year by making it a requirement of Contract for Difference (CfD) applications for renewable energy developments.

One of the challenges in promoting the use of community benefits in conjunction with renewable energy developments is how one can move beyond voluntary community provisions by developers and towards institutionalising community benefits as a firmer requirement of development consent. The current use of community benefits in facilitating the release of planning consent is problematic. An alternative mechanism would be to attach the requirement for community benefits to contracts between prospective developers and public bodies, where those bodies control key aspects of the development process, such as land or market support. 

The provision of community benefits should be tied to the creation of CfDs for major new renewable energy projects. Government is already exploring the scope for including non-price factors into the CfD scheme, such as around skills development. Instituting a minimum level of community benefits through CfD rounds would avoid downward competition between developers on the level of community benefits without stifling creativity on how such benefits are structured or deployed. Such a measure should prevent communities from losing out from any wider downward pressure on prices. The minimum level of community benefits could be set at £5000/MWh for onshore wind, and more for more profitable technologies, such as large-scale solar PV or offshore wind.

4. Adjust the NPPF to positively encourage Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) to plan for onshore wind.
5. Amend the NPPF to adopt a presumption in favour of onshore wind development within all industrial and commercial sites, as well as promote the development of onshore wind at all sites with sufficient grid capacity for large-scale low-carbon energy development.
6. Create an Onshore Wind Acceleration Taskforce.
7. Use the Solar Taskforce to collate evidence on planning outcomes from LPAs that already issue non-statutory guidance on acceptable greenfield locations for solar PV.
8. Use the Marine Management Organisation to draw up marine spatial plans for English offshore waters that demarcate more closely those areas likely to be the most acceptable for offshore wind, gas and oil development and those which are more sensitive and should be avoided.
9. Deliver a precise Land Use Framework for England to provide a useful knowledge base for LPAs.


Alexander Stafford MP, member of the Energy Security and Net Zero Select Committee, commented:

“The UK’s often-restrictive planning regulations need to be overhauled if we are going to be able to meet our net zero targets by 2050. We must allow communities to not only be able to Build Back Greener, but also have a voice in how best to ensure that their area can take advantage of the jobs, investment, and opportunities that will come from renewables. This report highlights the importance of making this change, especially for economies both local and national, and I look forward to seeing how the Government will take forward its recommendations.”

Stephen Hammond MP, former Parliamentary Under Secretary to the Department for Transport, commented:

“Renewable energy is a unique opportunity for the UK. It will create economic opportunity and investment, provide cheaper bills for UK households and ensure long-term energy security. Successive Conservative Governments have recognised this and helped turn the UK into a renewable energy superpower. Under our Party, we have managed to build the first, second, third and fourth biggest offshore wind farms in the world. 

“However, we have seen both the US and China make significant investments in their own domestic renewable energy. Now is the time for us to go further and faster on solar energy as well as onshore and offshore wind. We should look to reform the planning system to make investment in and the delivery of renewable technologies quicker and easier. Bright Blue’s report is timely and welcome, providing some interesting ideas into how we can turbocharge the sector. 

“Furthermore, the One Nation caucus recognises embracing these policies will provide an electoral boost for our party. We are delivering on net zero for our country and should harness further investment in renewables to create positive and sustainable energy sources for the UK.”

Wera Hobhouse MP, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Energy and Climate Change and Transport, commented:

“It is time for the triple veto to go. It has allowed the Government to dither and delay over developing desperately needed onshore wind schemes in England. The current restrictions should be removed to speed up the deployment of renewable power and guarantee security of energy supply. We need new onshore wind investment so that we can rapidly cut bills for the millions of families struggling to afford them. From new green jobs to lower energy bills, onshore wind can hugely benefit local communities.”

Sam Hall, Director at the Conservative Environment Network, commented:

“A global renewable energy boom is underway, with record levels of solar and wind set to be built around the world this year. To keep pace and attract some of this investment, the UK must reform our planning system to make it easier and faster to build new wind and solar, while ensuring we bring communities with us. Expanding renewable energy will benefit our energy security, reduce bills, cut gas imports, and lower emissions. 

“The Government deserves significant credit for recently setting out moves to speed up planning decisions for renewables, but there is more to do, particularly around support for local energy planning and mandatory community benefits as this report highlights. Fast-tracking planning approval for onshore wind on industrial sites is an excellent recommendation that would improve international competitiveness and boost economic growth, with minimal impact on local communities.”

Roger Mortlock, Chief Executive at the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), commented:

“Climate change is the greatest threat to our countryside, putting food security, wildlife and iconic landscapes at risk. We urgently need a fair and fast transition to a net-zero energy system that empowers rural communities to identify the sites, technologies and scales appropriate for their local landscapes. This will require well-resourced local planning departments and a national land-use framework that prioritises brownfield development, puts rooftop solar first and protects valuable landscapes, farmland and working farms. 

“As the report highlights, new renewable energy schemes must benefit the rural communities that host them. The Government must update the 2015 Shared Ownership Framework, legally obliging all developers of commercial renewables infrastructure exceeding £2.5 million in project costs to offer interested communities the opportunity to acquire a stake of at least 25%”. 

Read the full report here.


Notes to editors:

To arrange an interview with a Bright Blue spokesperson or for further media enquiries, please contact Emily Taylor at or on 07841 419316.

  • Bright Blue is the independent think tank and pressure group for liberal conservatism.
  • This report is kindly sponsored by the European Climate Foundation. Bright Blue has had complete editorial control over the report. The report does not necessarily reflect the views of our sponsor.
  • Bright Blue’s Board includes Diane Banks, Philip Clarke, Alexandra Jezeph, Richard Mabey and Ryan Shorthouse.

Our advisory council can be found here. We also have 220 parliamentary supporters. Members of our advisory council and our parliamentary supporters do not necessarily endorse all our policy recommendations, including those included in this press release.