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Pickles extends control on onshore wind decisions

Words: Huw Morris
Onshore wind farm

Communities secretary Eric Pickles is extending his period of calling in decisions on renewable energy projects for a further 12 months.

Pickles announced last October that he would call in renewable projects for a six-month period.
In that time he has called in 33 wind projects, comprising 93 per cent 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 called in by Pickles, decisions have been reached on eight projects, with all but one refused. Two of the projects to have been turned down had previously been recommended for approval by the Planning Inspectorate, with one of these decisions currently under judicial review.
RenewableUK, which represents the wind and marine energy industry, bitterly attacked the move.
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.
"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 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."