Irritation was growing among wind farm builders this week as Eric Pickles extended his power to halt and personally approve new projects for another year.
Last year a change in the law gave the Communities and Local Government Secretary a six-month window to check wind project planning applications were up to scratch.
Using these recovery powers he demanded to double check 33 wind projects according to the trade body RenewableUK. It said these made up 93% of all wind energy capacity currently at appeal in England.
The group complained that decisions have only been reached on eight projects, with all but one refused. The others are in limbo.
In a written ministerial statement yesterday, Mr Pickles said: “I am encouraged by the impact the guidance is having but do appreciate the continuing concerns in communities… Therefore after careful consideration I have decided to extend the temporary change to the appeals recovery criteria.”
Wind companies suggested he was extending his grip on permission for wind turbines as close to the general election next year.
Rumours surfaced last week the Conservative Party plans to put a cap on wind farms in its manifesto. Tory party Chairman Grant Shapps has made his opposition to wind projects clear.
The resulting uncertainty for wind farms provoked wind groups to fury.
Maf Smith, RenewableUK’s Deputy Chief Executive said: “Telling local authorities that they can’t decide on wind applications runs counter to the principles of the Localism Act and introducing more delays is anti-business. The extension is a costly mistake for the UK.
“Mr Pickles’ intervention has led to further delays for developers, a couple of project withdrawals, and a court case. The fact that many of the projects he’s called in since June still haven’t had decisions shows that he’s got more than enough on his plate without adding to it and disrupting more projects.”
Dale Vince who founded green energy firm Ecotricity railed against Mr Pickles’ decision against a wind farm in Somerset last month.
He said: “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. 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?”