A group of rural organisations has called on the Government to encourage greater investment in small-scale renewable energy infrastructure in the countryside.
The Rural Coalition – a collection of six organisations, which includes the Royal Town Planning Institute and the Town and Country Planning Association – is pushing for local plans to be “steered” by government policy towards small-scale projects.
The Coalition’s claims come in its Rural Challenge report, in which it argues that the countryside has a valuable role to play in sustainability drives.
The report said: “Low-carbon farming and renewables offer the largest potential positive contribution by farms and estates to the mitigation of climate change, by enabling other sectors to reduce their emissions.
“Similarly, the use of anaerobic digestion to manage farm by-products (such as slurries) and other wastes, not only to reduce carbon dioxide emissions on farm but also to displace the carbon dioxide burden of bought-in artificial fertiliser, offers a win-win way forward.”
The Coalition argues that the most efficient way to encourage such infrastructure is through co-operative schemes, which will allow rural communities to own a share of waste infrastructure.
The report said: “One of the most effective ways to engage people from all walks of rural life in all these opportunities is through shared and co-operative ownership and investment, giving everyone a stake, regardless of income or standing. An example is community-owned local generation/recycling/heating initiatives. As yet, however, the communities themselves gain little but costs from much of the move to low-carbon economies.”
Commission for Rural Communities chairman Dr Stuart Burgess said: “The countryside offers huge opportunities to contribute more to climate change mitigation in terms of providing space for renewable energy.”