24 September 2014
RenewableUK has condemned the unprecedented interference of the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles in renewable energy projects in England. He has now intervened in 50 wind farm planning applications since June 2013, taking decisions personally instead of allowing locally elected councillors and planning inspectors to do so.
To date, these projects would have added 520 megawatts of clean energy capacity to local communities from Cornwall to Northumberland – enough to power more than 275,000 English homes. These projects would have been worth a total of £581 million to the economy, creating 2,186 jobs.
Of the 50 pulled in by the Secretary of State, decisions have been reached on 19 projects, with all but two refused. Five of the projects turned down by Mr. Pickles had previously been recommended for approval by the Planning Inspectorate, a non-executive agency of the Department for Communities and Local Government.
RenewableUK’s Deputy Chief Executive Maf Smith said, “Fifty interventions in onshore wind projects means higher bills for UK consumers, goes against public demand for renewable energy, and holds back action on climate change. These sites would have meant half a billion pounds in local investment creating over 2,000 jobs. Eric Pickles is clearly relaxed about such unprecedented intervention in the planning system. He has politicised what should be an independent and impartial planning system with 98% of wind farm appeals are now being decided by Mr. Pickles himself. His guiding principle seems to be localism - as long as you do what I say”.
Mr Pickles’ ongoing intervention in the work of local authorities has prompted widespread criticism from organisations as diverse as the CBI and the Campaign to Protect Rural England. The Director of Business Environment at the CBI, Nicola Walker, said in September that the actions created “a perfect storm for energy infrastructure investors”, and the Director of Policy and Campaigns from the CPRE, Neil Sinden, stated that there has been “far too much ministerial intervention in the decision-making process”.
Speaking to the Communities and Local Government Committee in June, Conservative Councillor Gillian Brown, leader of Arun District Council, agreed that local authorities should be allowed to make their own decisions on wind farm applications.
1. 19 decisions have been issued by the Secretary of State, 14 of them are in line with the Planning Inspectorate (PINS) recommendation (12 dismissals and 2 approvals). The last 5 decisions are refusals against PINS’ recommendation.
2. Recoveries: Since June 2013 the SoS has recovered 45 projects which were at appeal stage, totalling 448MW
Call-ins: Since March 2014 the SoS has called in 2 projects from Local Authorities – these projects had been (or were just about to be) voted for approval and total 18MW
Holding Directions: Since February 2014 the SoS has issued 3 Holding Directions which have not so far proceeded to a Call-in, totalling 54MW
Political interventions: 50 onshore wind projects or 520MW with a total investment value of over £581m have experienced political intervention (recovered, called in or with a holding direction)
3. The 50th project in which Pickles has intervened is Beck Burn, a resubmission by EDF: http://www.edf-er.com/News/BeckBurnRe-submitted.aspx
Total capacity 18MW (9 x 2MW turbines) which would power 9,597 UK homes.
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