On farm renewable energy options have gained in popularity in recent years. Although financial support for these schemes has dropped, lower technology costs and increasing awareness of climate change and environmental sustainability has encouraged more businesses to explore opportunities in this area.

There are lots of factors to consider in looking into renewable energy options. We often find that planning permission is one of the last things on the list, which makes no sense to us as it can really can be make or break for whether you can go ahead or not!

On-farm renewables options which might require planning permission include:

  • Biomass boilers
  • Solar panels (on roofs or on land)
  • Battery storage
  • Anaerobic digesters (AD)
  • Ground source heat pumps
  • Hydro power

At a national level, the government does want to support the delivery of renewable and low carbon energy infrastructure and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, in locations where the local environmental impact is acceptable.

In pursuit of improving your business, the planning process can seem like a daunting hurdle to overcome. While on-farm renewables can often be appropriate, there can be a few ‘dealbreakers’; things which can unfortunately mean planning is unachievable. As well as the these, there are several other factors which have to be carefully considered and explained to the Local Planning Authority to make sure it complies, and so that permission can be secured. Our favourite phrase is ‘get your ducks in a row’, with preparation being key to a successful application.

Is planning permission required?

This is a complex area – there are various ‘permitted development’ rights for renewable energy systems, depending on factors such as whether it is domestic / non-domestic, power rating of the proposals, whether any ‘physical’ development is needed, location, designations, impact on amenity and so on. This could be particularly important if you’re sited in a designated area such as Green Belt (see our guide to Green Belt here) as sometimes permitted development rights allow things which the Local Planning Authority might not otherwise support.

Even if you don’t need full planning permission, there is often a formal ‘prior notification’ process that needs to be followed with your Local Planning Authority. Note the word prior - this has to be done before any works are carried out the site.

Our advice would always be to assume that you do need permission and check in advance of doing any works, rather than steaming ahead and then finding out that there’s a problem further down the line.

View further information resources here

What is the process for this type of application?

Read about the planning process here

What are the main issues that need to be overcome?

Principle of the proposal – on-farm renewables

We have to firstly make sure the Local Planning Authority are happy with the proposal in principle, asking the question - does the development meet local and national planning policy? As well as the principle, there are lots of other factors that come into planning for renewables, and Local Planning Authority support can vary hugely as a result:

  • Impact on designations such as Green Belt, AONBs
  • Noise
  • Emissions
  • Landscape and visual impact
  • Highways safety
  • Impact on public rights of way
  • Neighbour amenity
  • Ecology
  • Likelihood of flooding

Other factors have to be thought very carefully about:

  • Design
  • Materials
  • Scale
  • Use
  • Siting
  • Drainage

How The Rural Planning Co can help

We LOVE getting involved with exciting projects like this, and helping you along the journey to bringing your business plans and dreams to fruition. With many years specialising in this sector, we believe that engaging an experienced and proactive consultant can reduce the stress, time and cost of the process and above all gives you the best chance of success.

Read our pricing here

Read about the planning process here

Read ‘how we work’ here

Read about us here

Find case studies here

Here are some links to more business help on The Business Barn website.

Our other business Moule & Co specialises in rural professional and agricultural consultancy and can help with farming subsidies, grants, business plans, tenancy issues, valuations and more.