The West Midlands is set to miss its target on wind energy because local planning authorities are holding up the process, according to a leading body.
The British Wind Energy Association (BWEA) believes Government targets to create electricity generation from renewable sources around England are falling short when plans come before local councils.
BWEA chief executive Maria McCaffery said: “In common with most other English regions, the progress made in the West Midlands is disappointing.
“Yet we know that the target system does work.
“Missing the 2010 targets is now inevitable but we can still achieve the longer term 2020 ambition.
“To do that requires political will, which seems to exist within Government but not where it is really needed, within local authorities.
“The average time it takes for a wind farm to get through local planning is 14 months, yet it is supposed to take 16 weeks.
“All we are asking is for a level playing field. If other major infrastructure projects can be consented in 16 weeks, why can’t a wind farm?”
The West Midlands Renewable Energy Strategy, created in 2004, sets a target for regional electricity supply through wind energy by 2010.
This equates to 408MW of renewable energy but only 183MW have been installed.
This document was created by the West Midlands Regional Assembly, Advantage West Midlands and the Government Office for the West Midlands.
Director of the Environmental Business Club, Fred Mead, said communities must understand the benefits of wind farms if planning applications are to move through the process with minimal opposition.
He said: “I have a great deal of respect for what Ms McCaffery says and I believe the data she cites is correct, but more must be done to help communities realise the benefits of wind farms.
“If communities believe jobs will be created, businesses strengthened and power generated then there might be less obstruction to the planning process when local authorities are looking at these schemes.
“But we must also remember that there are lots of other renewable energy initiatives happening in the region like Combined Heat and Power plants and biomass technologies which we should also be shouting about.”
Mark Middleton, from the West Midlands Regional Assembly, remained optimistic about targets, claiming they provided local councils with the guidelines they needed when looking at wind farms.
He said: “The regional spatial strategy already contains a policy to encourage energy generation from renewable resources, including from onshore wind power.
“It provides the guidance that local councils need to determine planning applications for wind farms and help the region move towards its target of 10 per cent of electricity produced from renewable sources by 2010.”
The BWEA’s England’s Regional Renewable Energy Targets: Progress Report ranks the West Midlands as sixth out of nine English regions meeting onshore renewable targets.