Relaxing Planning Controls in Support of a Low Carbon Swindon
Swindon Borough Council’s Planning Committee is being asked to prepare and consult on the use of Local Development Orders to extend “permitted developments rights” to allow solar and energy development to take place with the need for a planning application to be submitted, so long as the applicant meets criteria and conditions to protect local areas.
The proposed Local Development Order’s will cover,
- Micro-generation and energy conservation measures on commercial and domestic properties;
- Converting petrol stations to accept Hydrogen and electric car fuelling infrastructure;
- Solar arrays and small scale solar farms at appropriate locations
- The proposed Solar Sound Barrier along the A419 and M4
In October 2013, A Cabinet report called “Swindon’s Energy Future” advised that the Council has a number of opportunities to lead the development of a local, affordable and sustainable energy supply in Swindon, which would lead to new job opportunities.
The Conservative administration in October agreed an ambition for Swindon to produce enough low carbon energy equivalent to powering all the Borough’s homes by 2020. All Councillors agreed this aspiration at the November Full Council meeting.
The target is 200MW, and Swindon has reached 15% with the approval of the Wroughton Science Museum solar farm, while Swindon Council is bringing forward sites for 10MW a year.
Cllr Dale Heenan, “If we are serious about a step change in how we approach our energy future in Swindon, then we must think of new innovate ways to make it happen. The crisis in the Ukraine shows we need to find alternative energy sources to importing Russian oil and gas. To reach our target of locally generating 200MW, then we must create the right environment for businesses to be encouraged to invest in Swindon. But we must also balance this desire with sufficient protections and assurances for local residents.
I am a big supporter of Local Development Orders to cut the red tape involved with planning, and the Council has successfully used them on our business parks and with large manufacturers like Honda and BWM to allow them greater freedom to extend their buildings and change uses.
Swindon new’s approach will use the same approach to tackle energy. It is probably a uk first, but it is simple and the right thing to do.
If a business or homeowner wants to improve their building to increase energy efficiency or install micro-energy generation, and you meet the criteria to protect neighbours, then I believe you should get on with it.
To see Swindon as an early adopter of Hydrogen fuel infrastructure, and electric car charging points, if the right safety and amenity controls are in place, any petrol station who wishes to convert should do so without interference.
While through a call for sites, the Council will work with landowners, and business to find uncontroversial sites for solar farms and assist the complete supply chain. If residents agree to the sites then there is nothing stopping the solar projects, get on with them!
This approach also has the strategic benefit of helping to tackle SSE over local grid capacity, and the A419 and M4 Solar Sound Barrier will be one example of the new permitted development rights, where no planning application is required.