Thursday, June 26, 2008

A rush of air!

thats clear then...

Today the Prime Minister announced a huge increase in the amount of electricity to be generated by wind turbines. I have to say Gordon was uncharacteristically up front.
He said that visible changes to landscapes, towns and cities are "inevitable" but added (perhaps a sop to local communities) that wind turbines would be sited in the "right" locations.
Mr Brown promised this change would come about as part of a 'New social organisation' and "will not emerge from 'business as usual' but "will require real leadership from government - being prepared to make hard decisions on planning or on tax for example, rather tacking and changing according to the polls." It would seem then that Mr Brown acknowledges that wind farms are rarely popular when they are proposed in most communities for they scar and despoil the landscape and are amazingly noisy.
How best to push such developments through then? The answer appears to be in what Mr Brown says "will involve new forms of economic activity and social organisation."
I think what he means by this is the abandonment of the current planning procedures with the formation of a new unelected quango to push through major developments via the new Planning Bill that was passed earlier this week. My key concern is over the is over the proposed 'infrastructure planning commission', which would decide development consents for major developments (such as wind farms) within an overall government policy. Like so much with this government, while the aim may be laudable, (for example to bring down the average time for decisions to within a year, rather than the several years under current planning inquiries) the means (in this case removing local democracy) are not.
The new quango would tear up a long-established framework and would be both unaccountable and undemocratic, reducing the scope for local protests and doubtless lead to planning by legal challenge rather than by elected representatives.
An amendment requiring final decisions to be taken by the Secretary of State, with the commission acting in an advisory capacity, has been backed by more than 60 Labour MPs, as well as opposition parties.
As Christopher Booker says in his article today, the case for wind power on such a huge scale is unproven at best but to my mind, the removal of local democracy to facilitate the turbine building is worse.