COMMUNITIES will have a greater say over the siting of onshore wind farms, the government has announced.
Changes unveiled on Thursday (6 June) mean residents will also reap increased benefits from hosting developments that do proceed.
The package of measures will include a five-fold increase in the value of community benefits paid for by developers.
Communities will also have to be consulted earlier in the application process.
The moves follow concern that current planning decisions on onshore wind are not always reflecting a locally-led planning system.
Over the past two years, communities have stepped up their opposition to wind farm developments they consider inappropriate for their local area.
New planning guidance will now make clear that the need for renewable energy does not automatically override environmental protections and local concerns.
It will give greater weight to landscape and visual impact concerns.
As part of the measures, the Government will make pre-application consultation with local communities compulsory for the more significant onshore wind applications.
This will ensure that community engagement takes place at an earlier stage in more cases and may assist in improving the quality of proposed onshore wind development.
Ministers will be writing to the Planning Inspectorate and councils immediately to flag up that new guidance will become available shortly, said the government.
Best practice guidance from DECC to onshore wind developers will lay down the higher standards expected in relation to their engagement with communities.
The government said it would also assist local people to gain the skills they need to enable them to engage more confidently with developers.
Communities agreeing a medium-sized 20MW wind farm could receive a package of benefits worth £100,000 per year, or up to £400 a year off each household's annual bill.
The government has also pledged more local decision-making and greater consideration for local environmental issues like landscape, heritage and local amenity.
Energy minister Michael Fallon said: "Today, we are putting local people at the heart of decision making on onshore wind.
"We are changing the balance to ensure that they are consulted earlier and have more say against poorly sited or inadequately justified turbines.
"When new turbines are agreed, we will ensure that they are developed in a way that benefits the local community, such as through cheaper energy bills."
Communities secretary Eric Pickles said the government would deliver the changes in collaboration with industry and communities over the next 12 months.
"We want to give local communities a greater say on planning, to give greater weight to the protection of landscape, heritage and local amenity."
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