United Kingdom

United Kingdom

UK government tightens grip on onshore wind appeals process

UK: The UK's secretary of state for local government has extended the period of time during which he can personally rule on appeals against decisions to block onshore wind farms.

Eric Pickles will have more power over appeals
Eric Pickles will have more power over appeals

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Eric Pickles has introduced new regulations that allow him an extra 12 months to take over decisions on appeals made by developers. Most appeals are overseen by the independent Planning Inspectorate, but Pickles can step in to rule on projects of "national importance".

The move is seen as detrimental to onshore wind as Pickles has been an outspoken critic of wind farms and has personally stepped in to block numerous projects. It is also expected to lengthen the appeals process for some wind projects.

While Pickles, a member of the centre-right Conservative Party, is only supposed to take over the appeals process for projects that have national importance, he has stepped in to rule on projects as insignificant as single turbine 100kW wind installations.

This latest move comes during a time when the Conservatives have been making indications that they will crack down on onshore wind development after the next general election in 2015.

This week, party chairman Grant Shapps told a meeting of regional journalists that onshore wind farms "upset everybody" and that wind farms were better sited offshore.

When asked directly whether the party would work to prevent new wind farms being developed on land, the senior minister replied: "The wind is moving in a clear direction here. The Conservatives feel wind farms have a place — and it is offshore by and large."

The announcement comes just days after it was reported a source close to prime minister David Cameron said that he was considering a moratorium of onshore wind farm development after the next election, creating a clear distinction between his party and their coalition partners, the Liberal Democrats.

The Conservative Party has been under pressure from its right-wing supporters to take a stand against wind farms after the far-right UK Independence Party (UKIP) came out strongly against all wind farms.

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