Sunday, July 07, 2013

The Planning Inspector and the Man from DECC

This is for the few with specialised interest. I like to keep visitors to this blog up to date with what's happening on the local 'Mid Wales Connection Project' front. Early this year I raised some issues about the local public inquiry into the six wind farms currently being considered by an 'Independent' planning inspector. There had been some concern that a representative of the Department of Energy and Climate Change had been sharing 'top table' with the Inspector when he first outlined his plans for running the Public Inquiry. Looked very odd in that its a DECC Minister who will receive the Inspector's recommendations and decide. I did say in a Westminster debate that I would write to the Minister about this concern - but he wrote to me first. It did not address the points I was concerned about. So on 16th April, I wrote formally to the Minister of State for Climate Change. Here is my letter.
16 April 2013
Rt Hon Gregory Barker MP
Minister of State for Climate Change

Dear Minister,
Thank you for your letter of 20th March. It does raise one point on which further clarification would be helpful.

In your letter you refer to the “line” which the Inspector took during the PIM for the Mid Wales turbine applications and you reproduce some of the response from him to one or more requests from your officials. There is widespread anxiety among my constituents who express concern that:

(i) a representative of your department was engaged in discussions with and was present at the table with the Inspector at the first preliminary meeting and

(ii) that DECC and the Inspector appear to be engaged in yet further discussions and exchanges ‘behind the scenes’ without the public being made aware of the existence, nature or content of those exchanges.

In order completely to allay concerns over these aspects, it would be helpful if you would make available to me copies of all correspondence, exchanges and notes of discussions to from and between (or on behalf of) DECC and the Inspector and PINS from the first date leading to his appointment to the present (naturally redacting personal details).

Because of the great local concern over this matter I await hearing from you at the earliest opportunity.

Yours sincerely,
Glyn Davies

I did not receive a reply, so I raised the matter in the chamber, when speaking on the Energy Bill, which led to a response that my letter could not be traced. So I sent it again, and received the following reply.

Department of Energy & Climate Change
3 Whitehall Place,
London SW1A 2AW                                                                     Your ref:
T: +44(0)300 068 5677                                                                  Our ref: FOI/EIR Request 13/0725
E:                                                                           1 July 2013

Glyn Davies MP
House of Commons


Dear Mr Davies

Thank you for your letter of 16 April 2013 where you requested the following information:
“Copies of all correspondence, exchanges and notes of discussions to from and between (or on behalf of) DECC and the Inspector and PINS from the first date leading to his appointment to present (naturally redacting personal details)”.
As Anjoum Noorani, Greg Barker’s, Senior Private Secretary’s e-mail message to Mr Carlick, your Office Manager/Secretary, of 5 June 2013 explained, it appears that, for some reason, your letter was never received by our correspondence system.
Your request is now being considered under the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (‘the EIRs’) on the basis that the information you have sought disclosure of, does in our view, fall within the definition of ‘environmental information’ as stated in the EIRs.
We are writing to advise you that the time limit for responding to your request for information needs to be extended. This is because it includes some information provided by third parties that is not already in the public domain and it is necessary therefore to first seek their views before we can release that information.
Under the EIRs, we are required to respond to requests as soon as possible and in any case no later than 20 working days after receiving a request. However, by regulation 7 the period of 20 working days may be extended up to a total of 40 working days if we reasonably believe that the complexity and volume of the information requested means that it is impractical to comply with a request within the earlier period or to make a decision to refuse to do so.
In respect of your request, we believe that regulation 7 applies. Therefore, although we shall not be able to respond fully to your request within the 20 working day period, we shall do so as soon as possible within the extended period. We hope to provide you with a response by 17 July 2013.

Appeals Procedure
If you are dissatisfied with the handling of your request, you have the right to ask for an internal review. Internal review requests should be submitted within 40 working days of the date of receipt of the response to your original letter and should be sent to the Information Rights Unit at:

Information Rights Unit (DECC Shared Services) Department for Business, Innovation & Skills
1 Victoria Street

Please remember to quote the reference number above in any future communications.
If you are not content with the outcome of the internal review, you have the right to apply directly to the Information Commissioner for a decision. The Information Commissioner can be contacted at: Information Commissioner’s Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 5AF

Yours sincerely,

Gareth Leigh
Section Head, National Infrastructure Consents

Now make of this what you will. But my guess is that I'm not going to get an answer that tells us anything meaningful. I'm afraid that's how it is. But I know there are a few of you who are interested in this stuff, so I thought I'd share it.


Dave said...

Perhaps you might also want to point out to DECC that only 5% of Powys residents are opposed to wind energy?
Time you represented the majority of your constituents?


Anonymous said...

I believe there are only 5 windfarms included in the inquiry?!!

Glyn Davies said...

Dave - With respect, that is total horlicks.

Anon - I realise its 5 wind farms, but it is also considering the route of line from the Llandinam repowering. I think itsreasonable to say its considering 6. All I'm trying to do is be accurate.

Anonymous said...

Keep up the good work Glyn.
The few noisy supporters of wind that have come out of the closet recently keep trying to make out that they are in the majority, when it is clear that they are most definitely the local minority.
A few pro wind letters in the County Times letters to the editor page, and ridiculous claims are all too typical of the pro-wind stance, and do not demonstrate a majority view.
I wonder how many of these pro-wind people stand to benefit financially from having a windfarm or a commercial wind turbine on their land, or are simply supporting others on the off chance that they might want to jump on the wind subsidy bandwagon themselves one day.
I suspect that many of the pro-wind supporters are under the mistaken impression that supporting wind power will prevent nuclear or fracking in the UK. But the truth is that we need power sources that produce power when we need it, so it will never be a case of wind instead of nuclear or fracking, it can only be wind and nuclear and fracking.
So why waste money on wind when the UK needs to invest in a reliable source of power before the lights go out.
Wind will never be the solution and the country can't afford to waste more money on wind subsidies.

Anonymous said...

Glyn it is very misleading to state there are 6 windfarms. There are 4 new windfarm applications, 1 re-powering and 1 powerline application. That is being accurate!
And for the record I have no financial interest in windfarms, nor am I a developer or employed by a developer. I am just Joe Bloggs with a belief in wind power as part of an energy future, this could include fracking but am yet to be convinced by nuclear.

Dave said...

The county times high profile, worthy of front page status at it's launch taking precidence over job losses and farming issues with the extreme snow. Anti wind protesters taking the petition to every street corner, knocking on doors begging people to sign it for a two solid months, following a two year hate campaign in the press.
But just over 7500 signed the petition which represents 5% of the population of Powys.
Is this a majority? Far from it.
So you can drink your horlicks. I will donate a bag of sugar to help sweeten the taste of reality!