A Well-Prepared Planning Application Will Get a Quicker Decision; AS the Welsh Government Makes Pledges to Create a "Greener" Wales, Energy Firms Are Warning That Slow Planning Processes Are Creating a Barrier to the New Renewable Energy Infrastructure That's Needed. Dr Roisin Willmott, National Director of Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) Cymru Explains the Issues and What Can Be Done to Simplify the System

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* IFFICULTY with progressing renewable energy infrastructure in Wales is increasingly hitting the headlines. Wind energy tends to receive the most press, as it's one of the most viable ways that Wales can reach the renewable energy targets set by the Welsh Government.

The planning process isn't about creating barriers, but about managing exactly where wind farms should go. This process rightly protects sensitive areas and provides sufficient land for us to meet housing and employment needs.

It has to balance a range of factors, and the sustainable development pledges made by the Welsh Government are a big factor in wind farm planning.

Another significant element of the planning process of wind farms is the democratic factor; members of local planning authorities play a huge role and the system also provides opportunities for communities and individuals to voice their views.

This democratic approach to planning in Wales is generally considered the most correct and fair way to review planning applications, as they allow everyone affected to put across their concerns or support.

However, energy companies are beginning to argue these democratic decisions for wind schemes are too slow, making investment in Wales a much less attractive prospect.

Indeed, there are some applications for wind generation schemes in Wales that have been in the system for up to two years. In these cases there is a risk that the schemes will be moved to an alternative location, leaving Wales without the means to hit renewable energy targets.

In order to speed up these applications, energy companies can review they way they submit their own applications to the local authority.

Sufficient information needs to be provided by the proposer of the scheme for the local planning authority to make a decision.

For example, larger wind farms have to allow for careful planning of a route that various (and extremely large) elements of the turbines can follow to reach the site. If these details aren't provided, the application cannot be progressed.

But the fault in delays does not lie purely with applications. The decisions made by the local authority should also be clear and, if an application is approved, it must include conditions to provide this clarity.

Without this, there is a risk the project could change from what was thought to have been approved.

To complicate the matter further, not all permissions for constructing wind farms are given by local planning authorities in Wales.

Larger schemes, such as those onshore schemes providing more than 50MW of power, can only be approved by the UK Government as they are not within the devolution settlement. …