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Government’s onshore wind snub faces legal challenge

Good Law Project and Leigh Day have launched a legal challenge against the Government over its exclusion of onshore wind development from its National Policy Statement for renewable energy.

Posted on 25 January 2024

This comes in the wake of Scottish Power’s Chief Executive telling a Parliamentary Committee that England is a “godforsaken” place for onshore wind.

Last week the Government published its revised policy on energy infrastructure, but Ministers failed to define onshore wind developments as Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects. This would have allowed applications for new onshore wind projects to be fast-tracked through the planning system.Despite being one of the cheapest ways to generate electricity, new onshore wind schemes have stalled since David Cameron’s changes to planning rules in 2015.In 2021 Good Law Project forced Ministers to review their energy plans, and two years later the Government claimed that it had lifted the de facto ban on onshore wind projects. But between this announcement and December 2023, no projects to generate power with onshore wind turbines were submitted to planning authorities. The new legal challenge by Good Law Project, represented by Leigh Day, wants to force Ministers “to unleash the potential of onshore wind”. It focuses on the Government's failure to give "reasons" under section 5 of the Planning Act 2008 for how its exclusion of onshore wind is consistent with a policy of meeting the Net Zero Target, following a recommendation by National Infrastructure Commission that "onshore wind should be included in the revised energy National Policy Statement and brought back within the scope of the Planning Act 2008”. 

Emma Dearnaley, Legal Director of Good Law Project, said:

“This Government has been stubbornly refusing to back one of the cheapest tools at our disposal to generate renewable energy. Instead, in the midst of a climate crisis, Ministers are scandalously focusing their efforts on keeping the fossil fuel industry thriving for decades to come.“It’s hard to see how we will reach net zero without forcing the Government to unleash the potential of onshore wind by removing all the barriers put up in front of it. It’s a sad state of affairs that we need to take it to court to do so”.Leigh Day solicitor Rowan Smith said:“The Secretary of State is under a legal duty to explain how the exclusion of onshore winder is compatible its Net Zero policy, yet there has been a complete failure to do so. This is compounded by the fact that the Government promised a review of nationally significant planning policy, including the exclusion of onshore wind, following the enactment of the Net Zero Target. If our client received an unsatisfactory response to its pre-action letter, then we will advise on a claim for judicial review.”

Rowan Smith
Climate change Environment Human rights Judicial review Planning Wildlife

Rowan Smith

Rowan Smith is a senior associate solicitor in the human rights department.

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