Renewable energy workshops for councillors and planners

Delivering a national programme of renewable energy information events

Project duration: October 2004 to March 2005

By the early 2000's, the government became aware that the UK's renewable electricity sector was growing slower than required to meet one of its targets: 10 per cent of the UK's electricity generated from renewables by 2010.

Various stumbling blocks were identified. Among them were hold-ups in the planning system caused by planners' and councillors' unfamiliarity with the kinds of applications for large-scale renewable electricity projects such as on-shore wind and biomass that they were now being presented with.

To address this, the Department of Trade & Industry (DTI) launched It’s Only Natural, a communications campaign designed to promote renewable energy to this key audience. The aim was to provide planning officers and councillors who sit on planning committees with independent and balanced information on the national and local policy context for renewable energy, on the process of dealing with an application, and the assessment tools and techniques used.

CSE was contracted to organise and facilitate a programme of workshops focussing particularly on areas where planning applications for large-scale renewables were likely to be concentrated, for example Cumbria, Cambridgeshire and Cornwall.

The target audience for this series of workshops consisted of:

  •  planning officers in planning policy and development control departments, who will be involved in formulating and applying criteria-based planning policies for assessing planning applications for large-scale renewable energy projects
  • councillors who sit on development control committees and therefore may be making decisions on whether or not to award planning consent for large-scale renewable energy projects.

The workshops were free, and, during the course of the series brought together over 1,000 officers and members from county councils, as well as from  districts and unitary authorities. The day included simulation exercises and the opportunity to question policy-makers from the DTI, regional renewable energy representatives and planning experts.

Feedback forms from the workshops showed that participants felt better informed about national and regional energy policies, sources of renewable energy and the environmental impact of the different technologies. They also felt more confident about handling planning applications.

They also expressed a wish for a one-stop despository of relevent resources such as planning policy statements, research findings, case studies and other published material. In response to this, after the It’s Only Natural series of workshops finished in the Spring of 2005, the DTI contracted CSE to produce a website that filled exactly this purpose: planningrenewables.org.uk.

To find out how this project developed, click here.

And to read about the related Expert Support Network for the planning community, click here.

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