Greenpeace think that energy policy the world over should be localised and democratised. Not only is it more efficient to generate power near where it’s going to be used, but giving communities some control over their power supply has numerous other advantages, many of which are being smugly illustrated on a daily basis by Germany.
And we’re not alone on this, the government agrees, and they’ve been busy bolstering local councils and their planning powers to make sure the process ‘is not a chance to be "consulted then ignored," but to wield real power.’ As Communities Secretary Greg Clark said.
Here he is again – ‘we want to create more options for local communities to exercise influence in the planning process.’
But not just to flex their NIMBY muscles, quite the opposite, in fact - ‘early involvement in the decision-making process means people are more likely to be supportive of local development. The more people participate, the more likely it is that development is to take place.’
As Greg told the Local Government Association only last month – “Take power now. Don’t let yourself, any longer, be ruled by someone else.”
So, empowering and democratising the planning process is one of those politically rare win-win scenarios, where we get more democracy, more development, and everyone is happy!
Looks like he’ll need to have a word with George Osborne, however, who in his endearingly backward way has got himself deeply confused over this issue.
George thinks that he can block new on-shore wind farms by increasing local community involvement (unless it’s a community led project, in which case he just removes their incentives), and ‘fast-track’ fracking decisions by threatening to remove the decision from local planning control and hand it to Greg’s Department for Communities and Local Government. I’d love to be a fly on the wall to hear the talking to Greg will give him if that happens!
We suspect that George has just let his over-developed sense of fair play get the better of him here. Fracking has become terribly unpopular, with only 21% of the population supporting it, whilst onshore wind, whilst a shade less popular than solar and offshore wind, was polling at 65% support the last time the government checked.
Clearly fracking is suffering from an unfair disadvantage, and in order to level the playing field George wants to remove that disadvantage by preventing local opposition to fracking from having an impact on any decisions. Allowing local control would effectively mean putting the interests of the community ahead of the needs of the fracking industry, which is just not the kind of systemic bias in local planning decisions that this government is willing to tolerate.