Pickles in hot water after refusal

Communities secretary Eric Pickles faces legal action after overruling HM Government planning inspectors to refuse a wind farm development by Ecotricity. The proposed four turbine wind farm near Highbridge in Somerset had  been supported by both local planning officers and the Inspectorate who agreed that despite significant impact on the immediate landscape, it would be able to accommodate the development which would, at larger distances still appear quite small.

Mr Pickles agreed with with these points but decided [and this is key] without actually visiting the site himself that the intermediate landscape would be affected to a level that was not offset by the environmental benefits of the scheme.

A spokesman for Ecotricity said: “Following a review of the secretary of state’s decision to dismiss our appeal for four wind turbines at West Huntspill, and in particular aspects of the decision-making process relating to landscape and topography at the site, we have decided to challenge the decision.

The result of this high court action will likely set a precedent for this and other similar cases where Mr Pickles has overruled planning inspectors which appears to Ecotricity, to represent political interference in the planning system as summed up by Dale Vince, CEO of Ecotricity, who said

Mr Pickles’ decision is a political intervention in the planning process – it’s anti-wind posturing as all his interventions in the planning process have been, and par for the course from this government.

We’ve worked diligently through the entire planning process, passed every test, including a public enquiry – only to have our application refused by a man that knows nothing on the subject, and cares even less. What faith can anyone have in the planning process when this can happen, when the rules are thrown out of the window on a whim?

If the recent floods have taught us anything it is that climate change is real and we need to do all that we can to abate the carbon emissions that cause it. Our government doesn’t seem to get that. It hasn’t just cut flood defence spending, it’s blocking the renewable energy schemes that can help tackle the cause of flooding.