Lib Dems 2014: Pickles accused of 'abusing ministerial power' over wind interventions

Energy secretary Ed Davey has said he has fought an 'insurgent battle' over green energy against the Tories and accused communities secretary Eric Pickles of 'abusing ministerial power' over his move to intervene in more appeal cases related to onshore wind applications.

Energy secretary Ed Davey
Energy secretary Ed Davey

Speaking at the Liberal Democrat Conference in Glasgow, Davey vowed to "battle" Pickles on the issue of onshore wind.

He said: "Onshore wind has been growing fast under us. It now generates around 5 per cent of our electricity, and it’s still growing. But the Tories don’t like this. Day after day they’ve urged me to cap onshore wind. I’ve just said no.

"Not just because it’s vital for climate change. But also to keep energy bills down, as onshore wind is now the cheapest large scale green energy option.

"Yet Mr Pickles doesn’t seem worried about climate or energy bills."

He added: "Mr Pickles – who claims to be a champion of localism – has been calling in every onshore wind planning application he can. Interfering with the independent Planning Inspectorate process. Over-riding decisions of elected councillors.

"Mr Pickles is in danger of bringing the planning system into disrepute. Of abusing ministerial power. And so preventing Britain getting the green power revolution it needs."

Davey also backed greater use of shale gas in order to help reduce the country’s reliance on coal and imports of gas from abroad, but said he has "had to hold back the Tories’ desire to frack every square mile of Britain".

Pickles announced that he would be considering whether to recover renewable energy appeal cases for his own determination last October for an initial period of six months, in order to ensure that decisions by the Planning Inspectorate were in line with new government guidance that communities’ views on applications were being taken into account. This period was then extended in April.

The deputy chief executive of industry body RenewableUK, Maf Smith, said it was "interesting" to see Davey "tackling the issue of Mr. Pickles’ excessive interventions in onshore wind farm applications head-on, accusing him directly of being in danger of bringing the planning system into disrepute and in danger of abusing ministerial power.

"Our planning system has become politicised under the Conservative communities and local government secretary. This has sowed confusion among local councillors and professional planners, and the increased uncertainty only pushes up consumers' energy bills", he said.

Responding to Davey’s comments, communities minister Kris Hopkins said: "Democratically accountable ministers have been recovering planning appeals that would otherwise be made by planning inspectors.

"Wind farm applications only go to appeal when they have been rejected by the local council but the wind farm developer wants that local decision overturned. Every appeal is considered with due process on its individual merits, based on the particular circumstances of the case."

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