Each country of the United Kingdom has its own distinct planning system with responsibility for town and country planning devolved to the Northern Ireland Assembly, The Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly. Each country has a set of guidelines to promote and encourage the development of renewable energy resources.
Single small and medium scale turbines are becoming increasingly popular, and are viewed far more positively than large scale wind farms.
At present, all static wind turbines in the UK need planning permission from the local council. Although public policy is in favour of renewable energy this does not automatically guarantee a successful application. Local authorities are there to regulate, enhance and regenerate areas, and policies and considerations vary significantly. Moreover, there are always local people willing to make adverse claims and objections!
The situation may change over the coming years. A consideration of 'Permitted Planning’ (where planning permission isn’t needed for single micro wind turbines) is currently under consultation.
In England, Scotland and Wales, the Town and Country Planning Act determines thresholds and criteria applicable to wind turbine development. If a wind turbine development consists of :
- More than two turbines
- Exceeds 15 m above ground level
.......then the Local Planning Authorities have the discretion as to whether an Environmental Impact Assessment is necessary. However this is "more likely to be required for commercial developments of five turbines or more, or more than 5MW of new generating capacity."
A request for a screening opinion settles the matter. Larger single turbines in a sensitive location, for example in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty or a National Park are likely to require an EIA.
For the Republic of Ireland, certain planning exemptions currently exist. For domestic use the exemption allows the erection of a mast and turbine up to a maximum height of 13m. For commercial or agricultural use the exemption allows the erection of a mast and turbine up to a maximum of 20m.