Government to dust off Planning Inspectorate proposal & commits to fracking ban

(Title Image: ACH Planning)

At Environment Questions this afternoon….

“Completely Unacceptable” Downgrading of Wales

Following a recent announcement that the EnglandandWales Planning Inspectorate was proposing to scrap its Wales Director position, Llyr Gruffydd AM (Plaid, North Wales) said this was a clear downgrading of Wales.

“….what does that say about the relationship between the Government here, and other partners within the Planning Inspectorate, that such a decision can be considered without there having been adequate consultation with you as Cabinet Secretary, and with the Government here?”
– Llyr Gruffydd AM

Energy, Planning & Rural Affairs Secretary, Lesley Griffiths (Lab, Wrexham) agreed that it was “completely unacceptable” and the creation of an independent Planning Inspectorate for Wales – kept under review since 2015 – was to be reconsidered.

Confidence in the System

Shadow Rural Affairs Minister, Andrew RT Davies AM (Con, South Wales Central) brought up the Welsh Government’s recent decision to overturn a rejected planning application for a wind farm near Llandrindod Wells. What confidence could local people have in the planning system if decisions of council planning committees and planning inspectors were overturned so easily?

The Secretary didn’t think it was a matter of over-riding evidence or decisions at all:

“I’m satisfied the planning inspector considered the relevant issues but I disagree with the conclusion….We have set renewable energy targets; we have to make sure that we deliver on those targets and, for me, the benefits of the proposal in terms of delivering renewable energy are material considerations, which are sufficient to outweigh the identified impacts of the scheme on both the landscape and the visual amenity.”
– Energy, Planning & Rural Affairs Secretary, Lesley Griffiths

Andrew then brought up another Welsh Government decision that went against independent report and evidence – the recent ban on shooting on public land.

The Secretary rejected any idea that it was “open season” when it came to decision-making; for the public to have confidence in the system, it requires policies that don’t conflict with each other.

Fracking Ban statement “due before Christmas”

Jane Hutt AM (Lab, Vale of Glamorgan) asked for an update on the Welsh Government’s policy towards fracking.

The Secretary was unequivocal:

“I’m determined to use every possible lever to ensure fracking does not take place in Wales. This includes strong opposition to issuing new petroleum licences, or consents for fracking, and the introduction of a much more robust planning policy.”
– Energy, Planning & Rural Affairs Secretary, Lesley Griffiths

Andrew RT Davies AM followed up by asking for a timeline for a potential fracking ban (at the moment there’s a moratorium in Wales), to which the Secretary said a statement was due – with a timeline – before the Christmas recess.

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