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The large windfarm being proposed for the Lenchwick area outside Evesham highlights serious problems in the planning system according to the area’s MP, Peter Luff.

Commenting, Peter said,

“First, there is a lack of good planning guidance from government to deal with applications like these. For example, local people rightly want significant “buffer zones” to keep these enormous turbines at a reasonable distance – they will be much higher than Big Ben and could be as close as 500 metres to homes – but there is no such provision in English planning rules.

“I have written to the planning minister asking for urgent clarification of the guidance to councils and what plans there are to improve it. The government is demanding a huge increase in on-shore windfarm development, so ministers must provide proper guidance on how and where they should be built. It shouldn’t be left to local councils to take the blame for government inaction.

“Second, we are once again in the crazy situation where the local councillors, both of whom are on the planning committee, can’t express their views. If they do, they will be disallowed from voting on the application. This is insane. As an MP, I can express my view – and will do so when I have heard from all the parish councils affected by the development – but they can’t. This makes them look as if they are not doing their job properly which is outrageous.

“I am delighted that my party confirmed yesterday that it is going to change these rules – but the government should never have allowed us to get into this ridiculous position in the first place.

“This is an enormously sensitive and controversial development. Local councillors should be free to express their views, and they are not. The council itself should have clearer guidance from government and it does not.

“This is a profoundly unsatisfactory way to address the twin needs of ensuring renewable energy supplies and protecting communities from intrusive and inappropriate development. No wonder the temperature of the debate locally is rising.”


Note to editors;

This is an extract from the Conservative party’s document, published on 17th February, “Control Shift; Returning Power to Local Communities” that promises reform of many planning issues by making decisions more local in nature:

“In some councils, candidates standing for election have been advised by monitoring officers that they must avoid mentioning any controversial local issue during their election campaign to prevent themselves being barred from voting on that issue if elected. This makes a mockery of local democracy.

“The interpretation of predetermination rules is a perfect illustration of the confusion between technical decisions and value judgments. Where there are technical decisions to be made these are naturally the province of independent judges or inspectors, who must not predetermine outcomes. Where value judgments must be made, this is a job for elected representatives – in which case having expressed a view of a particular outcome is the very essence of their campaign.

Certainly, it would be wrong for councillors to make decisions on issues where they or their family will personally or financially benefit. We will legislate to ensure that councillors (while being properly prevented from advancing personal interests) have the freedom to campaign and represent their constituents, and then speak and vote on those issues without fear of breaking the rules of ‘pre-determination’.”

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