Energy is one of the big issues that will affect all of Wales over the next 100 years, it has never made any sense for Westminster to make decisions in relation to energy development, power stations and big wind farm schemes in Wales, the development of which will impact on our communities in as many ways as we can imagine. The current set up means that any energy schemes applications where the proposed operating capacity is greater than 50 megawatts is made in Westminster, rather than Cardiff.
Peter Hain’s recent mutterings about devolving decision making to Wales (Dragon's Eye (16th June) are somewhat ironic considering that New (Old) Labour at Westminster did its best to block further devolving of decision making in a whole variety of fields to Wales. I would think that recent revelations about how the previous New Labour Government at Westminster worked to water down a proposal to limit the acceptable level of noise from wind farms enhances the case for decisions to be taken at the National Assembly.
Rhodri Glyn Thomas, AM for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr, said:
“Energy is a big issue in Wales and it is ridiculous that under current arrangements decisions about which projects should be approved are taken outside Wales, often by people who don't know our country and who in any case are unaccountable to our communities. As an AM, I feel powerless in this situation. When people come to see me about planning applications that are being made, I have to tell them there is very little I can do to help, despite having been elected to represent them. I think it would be much better if decisions about these projects were taken in Wales, based on reasonable grounds that help the drive against climate change while taking account of residents legitimate concerns.”
A fair point…especially as the ConDem coalition agreement states that the fundamentally undemocratic Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) is to be scrapped. The IPC, which one of dying New Labour’s more questionable creations, only became operational in October 2009, with its mission being to speed up the planning process for energy projects, many of which had been delayed for years because of lengthy public inquiries.
This Quango which was opposed by environmental groups and many others who see it as a fundamentally unaccountable body which would enable Government to ride roughshod over local objections to unpopular development projects, except in Scotland, where the Scots control their energy policy and energy development - unlike here in Wales.
So with the coalition Government planning to bring in legislation sometime next year to abolish the IPC and transfer its functions back to Westminster where does this leave Wales and the Welsh people – so much for democratic accountability.