Renewables planners call for stronger line from RTPI on Pickles interventions

Industry body RenewableUK and a group of 40 planners have written to the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) urging it to 'more forcefully defend the planning system and the livelihoods of members' against an increase in secretary of state interventions in wind farm applications.

In an open letter to the RTPI, RenewableUK and the 40 planners from consultancies and across the renewable energy industry, urged the RTPI to "plan an active role in this debate and to more forcefully defend the planning system and the livelihoods of your professional members".

The letter said Eric Pickles' greater use of recoveries in wind farm appeals "is bringing a halt to onshore wind development in England, a programme of work which is judged a National Infrastructure Plan Top 40 priority investment by Infrastructure UK".

The letter said: "Despite the fact that that there is now clear and rigorous national planning guidance on renewable energy developments and sufficient ministerial determinations have been made to inform the application of this guidance for renewable energy, the secretary of state took the decision to extend his recovery powers, which he had taken for a temporary six month period.

"The secretary of state told Parliament that in exercising this power, his decision ‘[did] not mean that all renewable energy appeals [would] be recovered’. However, more than 85 per cent of wind energy capacity has been recovered from the Planning Inspectorate.

"Therefore, a very significant majority of wind energy capacity has been taken out of the control of qualified professionals".

The letter added that the level of intervention by the secretary of state in planning for wind energy projects was "excessive".

"The decisions to recover wind energy appeals and call in planning applications go against the principles of the planning system and, in the case of project call ins, against localism. We believe that these decision-making powers should be handed back to the planning profession where they belong", it said.

The letter went on to say that the "continued use of this recovery power will stall onshore wind development and undermine investor confidence across the wider energy community, while eroding the credibility of the planning system throughout the entire infrastructure sector".

It concluded: "As professional members of the RTPI, we are writing to you to ask our institute to plan an active role in this debate and to more forcefully defend the planning system and the livelihoods of your professional members. Organisations as diverse as the CBI and CPRE have spoken out against current planning interventions, while our professional planning body has remained silent".

A spokesman for the RTPI said: "We have received the letter coordinated by RenewableUK about the role of the secretary of state in recoveries and call ins. We will be responding to the letter shortly. We would be happy to meet with RenewableUK and members to discuss the issues they raise".

The letter can be read here.

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