Reassessing community engagement by wind developers
A research report released today (13 December 2021) aims to underpin new guidance for the onshore wind sector in England. The guidance, led by CSE, addresses good practice in community engagement and the process for agreeing a suitable community benefits package.
Community Engagement and Benefits for Onshore Wind in England: Qualitative research on good practice – was produced for the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy by Nicky Hodges, Karen Smith, Dr Sarah Becker and Keith Hempshall from CSE, with support from Sophy Fearnley-Whittingstall from SFW Communications and Jenny Hazzard and Sarah McArthur from ITPEnergised.
The publication of the report comes at a time of considerable change in the context for onshore wind. Planning rules, introduced in 2015, have made it challenging for onshore wind projects to gain planning consent. Despite public support for onshore wind increasing from 65% to 77% and opposition falling from 12% to 6%, there were only eight applications for new onshore wind sites in England between 2016 and 2020. This compars to 237 applications submitted between 2011 and 2015 – a 96% decrease.
Our research shows these barriers to onshore wind not only pose a challenge to meeting the UK’s climate commitments and establishing a more resilient and reliable de-centralised and local energy system; they also mean that communities across England are missing out. Keith Hempshall, director of local and community empowerment at CSE takes a closer look at this in his blog.
CSE’s Nicky Hodges, one of the lead researchers in our report said: “To reach net zero, we must generate more energy from renewable sources, and onshore wind is a critical component in this. Our work has generated new case studies and updated evidence showing how developers and communities can engage with each other in a constructive and meaningful way from feasibility stage onwards.
“The report identifies what can contribute to agreement of a suitable community benefits package. These good practice insights inform the updated and guidance and should prove valuable to future onshore wind policy-making.”