United Kingdom

United Kingdom

UN fires warning shot over UK's public consultation procedures

UK: A United Nations Compliance Committee has ruled that the UK has failed to make adequate provisions for public consultations on the construction of wind farms.

The independent body, from the UN Economic Commission for Europe, ruled that because the UK’s national renewable energy plans (NREAP) were not subject to public participation, it had contravened article 7 of Europe’s Aarhus Convention, which establishes the public’s right to participate in environmental decision-making.

The ruling was prompted by action taken in March 2012 by Christine Metcalf, on behalf of the Avich and Kilchrenan Community Council in Scotland, protesting against the building of the Carriag Gheal wind farm and associated access roads.

The committee rejected the substance of Metcalf’s claims but recommended that the UK submit all future plans and programmes, similar to NREAPs, to public participation as required by article 7.

However, in practice, the UN ruling is unlikely to make any substantial difference.

RenewableUK deputy chief executive Maf Smith said: "It is important to note that NREAP is not a planning document and the committee rejected a number a challenges made in this case and a specific claim on a wind farm application.

"Therefore, all the relevant material policies and processes were shown to be compliant. The recommendations falling out of the ruling would only affect a future NREAP so it’s hard to see what changes as a result of this ruling," he said.

A spokesman for the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) said: "The UK is, of course, aware of its obligations under article 7 and will seek to act in compliance with them where those obligations apply."

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