RenewableUK has been disappointed at the news that the Communities and Local Government Secretary, Eric Pickles, yesterday announced that he will be extending his period of pulling in decisions on renewable energy projects for a further 12 months.
The announcement means that he has the option to take the final decision to consent or refuse all onshore wind farms in England personally.
The Secretary of State announced in October 2013 that he would recover more renewable energy projects in England for a 6 month period, so he could determine how new planning guidance was being implemented.
Using recovery powers, Mr Pickles has pulled in 33 wind projects, made up of a mix of individual turbines or larger projects, comprising 93% of all wind energy capacity currently at appeal in England.
On top of this, two local authorities have been blocked from giving consent to three onshore wind projects, with the Secretary of State having removed, or having threatened to remove, their powers of decision making.
Of the 33 pulled in by the Secretary of State, decisions have been reached on 8 projects, with all but one refused. Two of the projects to have been 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. One of these decisions is currently under judicial review.
RenewableUK’s Deputy Chief Executive Maf Smith said:
“Telling local authorities that they can’t decide on wind applications runs counter to the principles of the Localism Act, and introducing more delays is anti-business. The extension is a costly mistake for the UK.
“I expect the official planning bodies for this country will be up in arms that the planning system is being subjugated to political whim in this way.
“Mr Pickles’ intervention has led to further delays for developers, a couple of project withdrawals, and a court case. The fact that many of the projects he’s called in since June still haven’t had decisions shows that he’s got more than enough on his plate without adding to it, and disrupting more projects.
“Now is the time to let the planning system do its job – not to throw further confusion and delay into it with these anti-localism measures. His actions are also threatening the livelihoods of the nearly 19,000 people who owe their jobs to the UK’s onshore wind industry.
“The Secretary of State’s original justification for his decision to pull in these projects was that he wanted to see how his new guidance was being applied.
“Having done that, he has now decided to play politics with energy policy. Onshore wind developers will rightly be concerned about him continuing to undermine confidence in the planning system by taking these decisions himself”.