Government's politicisation of wind farm planning damaging for country, says TCPA chief

Planning for onshore wind farms has been 'politicised beyond belief' by the coalition government, the chief of charity the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA) has said.

Kate Henderson
Kate Henderson

TCPA chief executive Kate Henderson told a conference in London this morning that the government needed to take a stronger lead in planning for climate change.

She said: "The planning debate around [onshore] wind has become politicised beyond belief during the course of this government, and that is not good for communities, businesses or the environment. 

"We believe that we need a whole portfolio of renewable energy, and onshore wind has the opportunity to play a really positive role.

"But that requires having a really clear framework; it requires guidance that's nationally endorsed and produced by the government and an objective framework for making those decisions.

"At this point in time, we don't have that."

Henderson also called for a national spatial plan to deal with the problems caused by climate change, which she described as "the biggest challenge facing society today and in the future".

She said: "A key challenge is that England unlike Scotland, doesn't have a national spatial plan. 

"We devolved power down to 330 district planning authorities."

Henderson questioned whether decisions taken by these individual authorities would allow the UK to meet its challenging European Union commitment to slash carbon emissions by 2020.

She further asked whether the 30 planning authorities on the east coast of England would work together on a "comprehensive strategic plan to deal with sea level rise and protect some of our finest agricultural land". 

Henderson said: "That's the state of planning. Responsibility is absolutely at the local level."

Localism needed to go "hand in hand with national policy" and local authorities require guidance and resources from central government, she added.

Elsewhere, Henderson said that climate change was causing 300,000 deaths a year worldwide, mostly in developing countries, with flooding and heat waves having caused particular damage recently in the UK and Europe respectively. 

The TCPA is leading a European-funded project, Spatial Planning and Energy for Communities in All Landscapes or SPECIAL, Henderson said, which aims to promote best practice among planners in delivering renewable energy projects.

SPECIAL involves the TCPA working with eight partner planning organisations in other European countries in which each body is responsible for training planners in their own countries. 

The Planning for Energy Infrastructure and Environmental Sustainability conference was organised by Planning magazine with ENDS environmental data services and Waste Planning, and sponsored by Border Archaeology and Pegasus Group.

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