Energy firms are lobbying MPs to stop local people getting a bigger say over wind farms.
Industry body RenewableUK has “strongly” cautioned against the wholesale restructuring of the planning system, warning it could damage the battle to fight climate change.
The country’s burgeoning green industries could also suffer, according to the body representing hundreds of companies. And it claimed taxpayers face extra costs because of the coalition Government’s “localism” agenda.
North East communities have repeatedly fought against onshore wind turbines and Ministers have promised them a greater say over the planning process.
Geoff O’Connell, of Belford Parish Council, in Northumberland, backed moves to give local people a greater say over planning – with parish councils having to be consulted by law.
He said: “If there is any proposal to remove the parish councils and town councils, of course, from input as statutory consultees, I think this would be fiercely protested not only in this county, but up and down the country.”
Shadow Energy Minister Huw Irranca-Davies said: “I can see RenewableUK’s concern and frustration at the coalition’s approach to localism. They can see a wasted five years ahead of them.
“However, I have significant worries about reducing the input of local people to major decisions that affect their environment.”
In a submission to an inquiry into localism by the Commons local government committee, RenewableUK said: “While we welcome the spirit of localism, we therefore strongly caution against the wholesale review and restructuring of the planning system in seeking to deliver greater say to local communities.” It added: “The industry has real concerns about how the principles of localism will interact with the principles of sustainable development and move to address issues of climate change.”
There was still a need for “strategic” planning above the local level, said the submission, with renewable energy falling into this area in terms of meeting national need for energy supply and climate change objectives.
“It doesn’t usually come forward in response to local needs, either for energy supply, or for housing or employment or other local economic drivers.
“Nonetheless, on a national level, renewable energy is acknowledged to be needed as a priority,” MPs were told.
The Government was also urged to include planning issues in its new system to “ensure that locally-determined solutions do not risk jeopardising national obligations”. The trade body also questioned the effectiveness of “localism”, with variations in how much local residents were willing to get involved.
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