"Nothing is as it seems. Black can appear white when the light is blinding but white loses all lustre at the faintest sign of darkness."
Christopher Pike (Evil Thirst)
It would appear the Coalition's proposed reforms to planning laws is starting to draw some opposition, with Greg Clark taking to the airwaves in defence of the proposals and being 'interviewed' in The Times (£). The Daily Telegraph has an article by Louise Gray in which she writes that: "The draft national planning framework states that local authorities should identify “suitable areas for regeneration” where it will be easier to get planning permission for wind farms". For those readers interested in the detail, the draft national planning framework can be read here, together with an 'easy to read' summary here. Needless to say Tim Montgomerie, Conservative Home, has weighed in with an article here, linking to this article by Charles Moore in his usual Saturday Daily Telegraph op-ed piece.
There may well be a wish for 'localism' to play a part but the fact that the planning reforms are being sold as 'local people deciding what is built in their locale' is to a certain degree false because, returning to the extract above from Louise Gray's article, this from the draft national policy framework needs to be taken into account:
"The Localism Bill will place a new Duty to Co-operate on councils. The Duty means that local councils should to work together, with other public bodies, on planning issues that impact beyond local boundaries. The draft Framework puts into practice the Duty to Co-operate." (Emphasis mine)
So much for local people deciding what is built in their locale and any idea of localism. We then read, on the subject of neighbourhood planning that:
"If approved by a local referendum (vote), the neighbourhood plan will need to be put into force by the local council."
Yet in the Localism Bill, on the subject of local referenda, we find:
"56 (4) If the authority decides to take no steps to give effect to the result, it must publish that decision in such manner as it thinks appropriate together with the reasons for that decision."
It is logical to assume that member state governments are in constant dialogue with the EU Commission in order that any policy they may wish to introduce does not conflict with those of the EU, or those that may be being considered. Consequently it would appear that all the Coalition have been doing with their localism and planning changes has had to take into account this, from which:
"The European Commission (EC) is actively driving the development of energy infrastructure in EU Member States. However, projects given priority status under the Trans-European Energy Networks (TEN-E) guidelines frequently suffer delays. In most cases, these delays occur during the permitting procedure in the country in question. According to project developers in Member States, the main reasons are strong opposition to projects from stakeholders and complex national permitting procedures. Therefore, if the goals of the EU's 2020 scenario are to be met, stakeholder opposition to prioritised projects needs to be mitigated and the effectiveness of permitting procedures improved."(Emphasis mine)
Update: Further to the quote in Louise Gray's article that: "A separate analysis by the Department of Energy and Climate Change says the reforms are essential to “deliver the infrastructure we need to reduce our carbon emissions", this article has just appeared in the Express: "Were ministers open and honest enough to tell us how much money will be sacrifi ced on the altar of carbon reduction then at least voters could take a view on that trade-off and could decide whether or not it’s worth the proverbial candle. But outrageously the Government is refusing to divulge its offi cial estimate of the GDP sacrifi ce required to reach its ultimate target of a 42 per cent reduction in carbon emissions by 2020."