Policy CC/RE: Renewable energy projects and infrastructure

DRAFT version for various committee meetings.

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What will this policy do?

This policy will control how renewable energy generation projects and associated infrastructure should be planned and designed. 

Proposed policy direction

The policy will: 

  1. Provide a positive policy framework for the development of stand-alone renewable energy projects including associated infrastructure such as battery storage and upgrades to grid capacity; 

  1. Identify broad areas of potential suitability for different types of renewable energy, informed by Cambridgeshire Renewables Infrastructure Framework and a Landscape Sensitivity Assessment; 

  1. Indicate support for community led projects. 

  1. Identify a set of criteria which will apply to all renewable energy projects including consideration of impacts on: 

  • Residential amenity and quality of life (resulting from noise, vibrations, shadow flicker or visual dominance); 

  • Character and appearance of the landscape and surrounding area; 

  • Biodiversity, geodiversity and water quality; 

  • Historical, archaeological and cultural heritage; 

  • Highway safety and infrastructure 

  • Aviation, telecommunications or other essential infrastructure (including the Mullard radio telescope) 

  • The capacity of the landscape to accommodate renewable energy projects, the ability to mitigate visual intrusion and the cumulative impacts of individual sites. 

  1. In relation to wind energy, require that following community engagement, it can be demonstrated that the planning impacts identified by affected local community have been fully addressed and the the proposal has their backing. 

  1. National planning policy states that in the Green Belt, elements of many renewable energy projects will comprise inappropriate development. In such cases developers will need to demonstrate very special circumstances if projects are to proceed. Such very special circumstances may include the wider environmental benefits associated with increased production of energy from renewable sources.

Why is this policy needed?

National planning policy recognises that to help increase the use and supply of renewable and low carbon energy, local planning authorities should recognise the responsibility on all communities to contribute to energy generation from renewable or low carbon sources.  At the same time, national policy places limits on onshore wind generation.  For onshore wind turbines to achieve planning permission, they need to be located in areas deemed suitable for wind turbines in Local Plans or neighbourhood plans, and need to receive community support. 

In order to support the transition to net zero carbon and keep Greater Cambridge within its carbon budget, the Local Plan will need to facilitate both community and commercial scale renewable energy generation, with a blend of both wind and solar based energy.  As part of the work on the Net Zero Carbon Study (2021), our consultants have considered how much renewable energy should be generated within the boundaries of Greater Cambridge by 2050 in order for the area to fairly contribute to the national generation mix. This work recommends that onshore wind capacity in Greater Cambridge, which is currently lower than the national average, needs to increase in capacity around 7-fold.   The report recommends that sufficient areas should be identified to accommodate additional renewable energy projects. 

Work is currently underway to assess the sensitivity of the landscapes that make up Greater Cambridge.  This work will help to identify whether there are any broad areas of suitability for wind turbines and solar farms and what size or scale of proposal may be suitable subject to other policy requirements, which would then be identified via the policies map. 

This policy is also linked to policy CC/NZ, in that for any schemes that require the use of the offset facility, it will be important to ensure that sites are identified and ready to proceed in order to ensure that offsetting is not delayed. 

What consultation have we done on this issue?

We asked about how should the Local Plan help us achieve net zero carbon by 2050. Feedback included that we should support renewable energy production, use and investment. We should support community renewable energy schemes, and district heating.

What alternatives did we consider?

Not identifying areas suitable for wind turbines, leaving it to other types of renewable energy to contribute towards Greater Cambridge’s share of renewable energy - This is not the preferred approach, as there is a risk with this approach that this could place a risk on delivering sufficient renewable energy to meet carbon budgets, which would not be compatible with net zero carbon given the need for an increase in renewable energy generation to support this. 

Supporting evidence studies and topic papers

Existing policies in adopted 2018 Local Plans

South Cambridgeshire Local Plan 2018 

  • Policy CC/2: Renewable and Low Carbon Energy Generation 

Cambridge Local Plan 2018 

  • Policy 29: Renewable and low carbon energy generation

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