The Government’s new Planning Policy Framework
Up and down the country, groups of concerned citizens have formed protest groups, worked for many months to raise funds, hired specialist advice and lawyers, fought wind farm planning applications, and won, and opened the champagne. Then they’ve faced an appeal from the developers, and the man from Whitehall has listened to both sides of the case for a few hours, and then overturned the local democratic decision, and decided in favour of wind power, on the basis that it’s “Government Policy”. In fact, of course, it’s really Brussels policy passed down second-hand by our government.
Meantime there’s been a huge battle over the government’s revised and shortened Planning Policy, which many felt would be a license for developers. After much campaigning and a battle royal in the media, the government has come up with a still shorter document of fifty pages, which it says will reassure protesters. Many concerned with the wind farm issue hoped it would offer some good news. Perhaps more weight for local opinion — from this government that loves to talk about “localism”. Maybe tighter noise standards, or a minimum set-back from dwellings for new turbines.
If so, they will have been disappointed. Let me quote the key words from the document:
17. …. support the transition to a low carbon future in a changing climate, taking full account of flood risk and coastal change, and encourage the reuse of existing resources, including conversion of existing buildings, and encourage the use of renewable resources (for example, by the development of renewable energy);
There is a series of paragraphs all in the same vein, effectively giving carte blanche to the developers, and cutting the ground from under protesters. So much for localism. See the Daily Mail report under the heading “Charter for Wind Farms”:
A key driver of this policy has been Greg Clark, “Minister for Planning”, who calls himself a Conservative, yet cut his teeth as a social-democrat and a disciple of Shirley Williams. An MP who has said that Tories are wrong to treat Churchill as a role model — saying we should rather follow Polly Toynbee, the extreme leftist. He is the kind of “Conservative” who convinced me that I could no longer support the Party.
Here at the United Kingdom Independence Party, we’re used to Conservatives coming across to join us because they’re fed up with lack of progress on the EU issue. But more and more we’re seeing Conservatives, and disgruntled wind farm protesters, coming over to us because they’re fed up with this government’s planning policies, and with the steady march of the turbines. They feel angry and frustrated. They feel that no one is listening, and no-body cares. But we’re listening. And as UKIP’s spokesman on Industry & Energy, I can say “We agree with you”.
The government has a single policy here which infuriates voters, blights local communities, drives up the price of electricity, forces energy-intensive businesses and jobs and investment off-shore, drives pensioners into fuel poverty, threatens economic recovery and jeopardises our energy security. Not very smart thinking. That’s what I’d call a lose-lose policy.