UK Politics

Pickles increases energy policy role

offshore wind Image copyright Getty Images

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has staged a minor coup over coalition energy policy.

Conservative newspapers have been demanding a cap on onshore wind farms, but the Lib Dems have refused to agree.

So Mr Pickles has taken personal charge of wind farm applications for a further year, allowing him to block proposals for new turbines.

In a six-month trial period he has so far accepted one proposed wind farm and rejected seven.

A source at the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), controlled by the Liberal Democrats, accused him of playing politics with energy policy to appease backbench MPs.

But Mr Pickles said it was vital to give local people more say over wind farm applications.

'Continuing concerns'

RenewableUK, which speaks for the renewable energy industry, said one man was effectively in charge of all planning applications for wind farms in England.

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."

The source at DECC said it was too soon to tell the full effect of Mr Pickles' intervention. Many projects were already held up in the planning process because Mr Pickles was too busy to oversee applications.

In a statement Mr Pickles said that, prior to planning guidance issued by the coalition to give more weight to local concerns, more appeals had been approved than dismissed for significant wind turbines.

He added: "Since the guidance, more appeals have been dismissed than approved for significant turbines. But I do appreciate the continuing concerns in communities.

"Therefore after careful consideration I have decided to extend the temporary change to the appeals recovery criteria and continue to consider for recovery appeals for renewable energy developments for a further 12 months."

Follow Roger on Twitter @rharrabin

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