Quartermain plays down extent of Pickles wind farm involvement

Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) chief planner Steve Quartermain has played down concerns about secretary of state involvement in wind farm applications, denying it has been 'disproportionate'.

DCLG chief planner Steve Quartermain
DCLG chief planner Steve Quartermain

Responding to a question raised at the British Institute of Agricultural Consultants (BIAC) Rural Planning Conference this morning about a wind farm appeal that was recovered by the secretary of state and refused having been recommended for approval by the planning inspector, Quartermain claimed very few such applications had been decided by the communities secretary in the last two years.

"The engagement of the secretary of state in decisions at appeal amount to 7 per cent of all decisions on wind farms," he said. "I don't think that's a disproportionate engagement in the planning system."

He said recovery criteria were different and more applications had been recovered to determine if guidance was being interpreted as intended. "Yes he has recovered more appeals, and that's what the ministerial statement said he would do."

Quartermain's comments come after trade body RenewableUK last month condemned the communities secretary's "unprecedented interference" in wind farm projects as it published figures showing that Eric Pickles had intervened in 50 such applications since June 2013.

Quartermain said that recent changes made to improve the planning system are viewed by ministers as having had a positive impact, and the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and updated planning guidance available online made it clear to local authorities what they should do.

Quartermain told attendees that changes made were aimed at making the system "proportionate, effective, simple" and to fulfil the "government ambition that it should be local".

He said the government has looked at taking different approaches to certain things with a view to speeding up the process, with areas being looked at including permitted development rights, encouraging the use of brownfield sites and making it easier for "self-built" and "custom-built" houses to enter the market.

He said more homes were being approved and decision times had improved, while 79 per cent of local authorities now have published local plans.

Quartermain also stressed the importance of neighbourhood planning, saying that all political parties supported neighbourhood planning and it is "here to stay".

"Neighbourhood planning is seen as very important by ministers," he said. "It will continue to grow and I would urge you, if you haven't looked at it and thought about engaging with it, to do so, because that is where the government sees planning going in the future."

He said 120 authorities now had published plans, which vary in the issues they cover. "When you look at neighbourhood plans they are not all the same - nor should they be," he said.

Planning was the Rural Planning Conference's media partner.


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