Planning in the media

The week saw two of the most controversial developments to confront the planning system hit the buffers.

E.ON's decision to delay its plan to build a coal-fired station at Kingsnorth until 2016 was down to environmental protests and the economic climate, said The Times. "E.ON's decision was made easier by the strength of public feeling over new coal plants. Even though it had pledged to equip them with carbon capture, the cost remained far from clear - it would consume about 25 per cent of the energy produced by the plant, significantly changing its economics." The Daily Telegraph noted that E.ON's decision will "fuel speculation" that it was not the project chosen in a government contest to fit the plant with the UK's first carbon capture and storage technology. The Independent said the delay "will be seen as a blow to the government's energy strategy, which remains heavily reliant on coal". The Guardian commented: "The climate poison that would have belched from its stacks was a concern in itself. But the greater anxiety was the dreadful example that would have been set. For the UK to have built its first coal-fired power station in decades without meaningful carbon capture being built into the design would have granted developing countries moral licence to follow suit."

Elsewhere, The Sunday Times reported that airport operator BAA has finally bowed to opposition to a third runway at Heathrow. "It will not submit an application before the general election and will not sign large contracts to 'bounce' a future Conservative government into accepting it." Shadow transport secretary Theresa Villiers said: "It seems that BAA has woken up to the fact that we mean what we say and that if we win the election there will be no third runway." However, the paper said some suspect BAA's position is "a tactical ploy and it will continue to work behind the scenes to convince the Tories of the need for expansion".

Meanwhile, Oscar-winning actress Tilda Swinton has entered the row over US tycoon Donald Trump's £1 billion golf resort in Aberdeenshire, according to The Scotsman. She has signed an online petition protesting at the potential use of compulsory purchase orders to evict four homeowners, describing it as "industrial bullying" and a 21st century clearance. But Trump executive George Sorial replied: "I enjoyed her in Michael Clayton but am disappointed that she would make an ill-informed statement about a site she has not seen or a project she knows nothing about."

BBC1's Countryfile visited the Mountains of Mourne, a spectacular cluster of peaks that is among the candidates for Northern Ireland's first national park. The area attracts more than one million visitors a year, but pathways are disintegrating from too much footfall while wild fires are another threat to the environment. National park status could provide extra investment but local farmers who own most of the land fear that such a move could lead to more red tape and would destroy a way of life that has existed for generations.


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