Pickles extends planning control over wind farm projects

The wind industry has responded angrily to Eric Pickles' announcement that he will be extending his period of pulling in decisions on renewable energy projects for a further 12 months.

The Communities and Local Government Secretary announced in October 2013 that he would recover more renewable energy projects in England for a six month period in order to determine how new planning guidance was being implemented.

According to renewables trade body RenewableUK, Pickles has pulled in 33 wind projects, amounting to 93% of all wind energy capacity currently at appeal in England.

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.

“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,” added Smith.

Last month, Pickles rejected planning proposals by green energy company Ecotricity for a four turbine windfarm in Somerset.

Ecotricity founder Dale Vince said the plans were rejected under his initial six month trial of reviewing planning decisions, despite the planning inspector recommending the proposal for approval after a planning enquiry.

Vince said: “This decision by Mr Pickles’ is anti-wind posturing, as all his interventions in the planning process have been so far, and par for the course from this Government.

“[For the Somerset wind farm] we’ve worked diligently through the entire planning process, passed every test, including a public enquiry – only to have our application refused by a man that knows nothing on the subject,” added Vince.

Announcing the extention, Pickles wrote in a ministerial statement: “In publishing the [renewable energy planning] guidance, we have been quite clear that the need for renewable energy does not automatically override environmental protections and the planning concerns of local communities.

“Since the guidance, more appeals have been dismissed than approved for more significant turbines. Every case should, of course, be considered on its individual merits in light of local circumstances and the material planning considerations,” added Pickles.

Leigh Stringer

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