Stop meddling in onshore wind projects, renewables sector tells Pickles

Secretary of State Eric Pickles has been sharply criticised by the renewable energy industry for delaying the approval of many onshore wind energy developments in which he has intervened.

The criticism comes in the wake of a new report from the Communities and Local Government (CLG) Select Committee, which warns that Pickles’ recent actions risk reducing investment in the clean energy sector.

Assessing the impact of the Government’s National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), the Committee points out that Pickles approved 81.25% of housing schemes in 2013, compared with only 28.6% of renewable energy projects. The Conservative MP’s interventions caused some wind projects to spend more than two years in the planning system.

In written evidence to the Committee, the Confederation of British Industry said that such intervention is “having a serious impact on investor confidence in the renewable energy sector and indicates a lack of trust by government in the planning profession to interpret policy and guidance appropriately”.

Trade association RenewableUK told the Committee that planning for onshore wind energy was “becoming an increasingly politicised issue rather than being decided on a given project’s individual merits, on a case by case basis”.

The Committee also heard evidence from the director of policy and campaigns at Campaign to Protect Rural England Neil Sinden, who said: “there has probably been far too much ministerial intervention in the decision-making process.”

Political motivation

Commenting on the report, RenewableUK’s deputy chief executive Maf Smith said: “The British wind industry feels vindicated for taking Pickles to task for his constant meddling in onshore wind applications in England. A cross-party committee of MPs has acknowledged the damage caused by the Secretary of State’s continued interventions in wind projects.

“What the CLG Select Committee doesn’t call out though is the blatant political motivation for Mr Pickles’ interference. He needs to be reined in to stop stifling new developments; he’s sacrificing energy security, new jobs and much-needed local investment in the most cost-effective form of renewable energy that we have.”

The CLG Select Committee recommends that the Government must take steps to speed up the process of approving renewable energy projects.

Lois Vallely

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