New network of renewable energy experts being set up to support local authority planners: experts sought

A new 'expert support network' of renewable energy experts is being set up to offer advice and support to planning professionals across England. The network will be managed by Centre for Sustainable Energy (CSE), and be run in association with the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and the Department for Communities and Local Government (CLG).

Applications for membership are being sought until the end of January

The Expert Support Network is aimed at local authority planning officers, both policy and development control (although other local authority planning officers will be able to access the Network if they have a relevant query). Councillors will benefit indirectly since the aim of the service is to help to produce evidence to support good quality and robust decision making.

The Network, to be launched in February 2009, will give planning officers the opportunity to receive advice, information and guidance from a suitable renewable energy specialist on specific issues relating to their work.

It will offer free support of up to one-day’s worth of an expert's time to be able to deal with more complex queries that require more in-depth research, clarification and response. This will typically be delivered via telephone and e-mail. Where queries are less complex, or are variations on ones that have been already been dealt with, the option of a half-day's or a few hours' worth of support will also be available.

The purpose of the workshops is to support the local authority planning community in dealing with the increasing number of planning applications for renewable energy schemes, some of which, like wind farms and biomass plants, generate considerable local controversy.

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