Wind farm at sea under construction
Westermost Rough Offshore Wind Farm, off the Yorkshire coast, in May 2015 © Historic England DP168948
Westermost Rough Offshore Wind Farm, off the Yorkshire coast, in May 2015 © Historic England DP168948

Renewable Energy

Recognising the threats of climate change to the historic and natural environments and to our national prosperity, Historic England welcomes the Government’s commitment to reduce the emissions which contribute to global warming.

We support measures to reduce fuel consumption, increase energy efficiency and exploit renewable energy sources; and we are researching and promoting the role our cultural heritage can play in both climate change mitigation and adaptation. In addition, through our own sustainable development strategy, we are committed to reducing the environmental impact of our own activities.

Nevertheless, we also recognise that some renewable energy technologies have the potential to cause serious damage to irreplaceable historic sites, which are themselves an integral part of the wider environmental and sustainability agenda.

Balancing benefits and costs

A truly sustainable approach to renewable energy generation needs to secure a balance between the benefits it delivers and the environmental costs it incurs.

Historic England therefore supports an approach to renewable energy generation which:

  • Acknowledges the need for society to invest in a wide range of renewable energy generation technologies
  • Recognises the potential environmental impacts of different technologies, including their implications for the historic environment
  • Keeps the balance of environmental benefits and disadvantages of each technology under continual review
  • Continually seeks to limit and mitigate adverse impacts

Determining the balance between harm and benefits is done on a case by case basis, informed by evidence and assessment and taking account of a range of factors and relevant policy and guidance.

Historic England believes in maximising the benefits of renewable energy projects, while minimising their adverse effects on the historic environment. This can be achieved by considering the cumulative effects of projects as well as their specific impacts and by ensuring that the implications of renewable energy developments are adequately reflected in national, regional and local planning policy and at all stages of the environmental impact assessment process. 

High-quality design

We also believe that high-quality design can play a key role in minimising any adverse effects of projects, whether we are considering wind turbines and energy crops in the landscape or the positioning of photo-voltaic cells on historic buildings.

Fundamental to achieving high-quality design is a sound understanding of the character and importance of the historic asset involved, whether at the scale of individual buildings and sites or more extensive historic areas and landscapes.

Given the rapidity with which renewable energy technologies are evolving, renewable energy projects and their associated infrastructure should aim to be reversible and/or replaceable where possible.