Government ‘wobble’ over Planning Bill could threaten UK energy policy

25 June 2008

Government ‘wobble’ over Planning Bill could threaten UK energy policy

Any ‘wobble’ by the Government on the Planning Bill as it faces a crucial vote in the House of Commons tomorrow could threaten ministers’ renewable and energy security objectives. The Energy Networks Association (ENA) has warned the Government not to make concessions to the Bill that jeopardise the energy sector’s ability to meet the twin challenges of carbon reduction and security of supply. ENA has also called upon MPs not to reject the proposals for an Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC).

David Smith, Chief Executive of ENA, said: “Planning reform is desperately needed to provide a more transparent and efficient system for delivering vital national infrastructure. The Planning Bill sets out a framework that will ensure that the infrastructure needed to deliver the Government’s ambitious carbon reduction and renewable energy targets can be met in time. These could be jeopardised if the Government fails to deliver the Bill intact.

“At the same time the Bill will also enshrine for the first time a formal process of community consultation that will enhance engagement and underpin the democratic process. Key to this is the IPC. If it is rendered powerless and loses its independence then the Planning Bill will have lost its central plank.

“The net result will be to add yet another tier of bureaucracy without genuine public consultation. The energy industry wants to see fundamental reform of the planning process. We need greater transparency, enhanced efficiency and a more streamlined framework.”

ENA believes that another benefit of the Planning Bill is its proposal for a pre-application consultation process that will provide for more effective and focused early engagement with communities over proposals. This will replace the less transparent and more piecemeal process we have at present which delays projects and currently causes uncertainty.