Government is taking away people power

Think local, act global has long been the catch cry of the climate change movement, but increasingly there are questions about where decisions are made, and what local factors can be considered.
Cuadrilla exploration drilling site in West Sussex. Photo: Gareth Fuller/PA WireCuadrilla exploration drilling site in West Sussex. Photo: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire
Cuadrilla exploration drilling site in West Sussex. Photo: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

The current Tory Government likes to talk about local control, but in reality they only believe in local control when it suits their political agenda – and disastrously that agenda favours fossil fuels over renewable energy.

On the one hand the Government is saying local communities should have the final say on the installation of wind turbines. But in the weeks following Lancashire County Council’s decision to decline planning permission to Cuadrilla’s application for two fracking sites, the threat from national government has been to curtail local decision makers’ discretion and tighten the timeframes they have to consider major decisions.

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It’s worth noting the delay in the recent fracking decisions was due to Cuadrilla withdrawing and resubmitting their application!

Cat SmithCat Smith
Cat Smith

Local communities are excluded from major energy planning decisions in other ways as well. At the beginning of August, Conservative Peer Lord Bourne gave Halite permission to move forward with a large gas storage facility in the salt-fields of Preesall. The gas storage process went through the national infrastructure planning process, so while it is opposed by many local groups and individuals and both relevant councils, no one with a local democratic mandate was involved in the decision making process.

Reinforcing the Tories preference for fossil fuels over renewables is the recent decision to reduce support for small scale solar ie having panels on your roof. This follows decisions to reduce support for on-shore wind, and large scale solar.

Energy security is a national issue, and how we do that is of global concern, but what I am concerned about is that our government continues to reduce our opportunities to act local. Whether through making it harder for us to undertake our own small scale generation, or to express our support of renewable technologies, or to oppose large and potentially dangerous fossil fuel processes.