Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Infrastructure Planning Commission.

On the 8th December 2009, the Plaid Cymru group produced a Press Release about the dangers to democracy of a new quango called the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC)which will make decisions on,
"nationally significant infrastructure projects” across Wales and England. The commission has no jurisdiction in Scotland or Northern Ireland."

To read the whole Press Release go here. Our press release did not make the Daily Post pages at that time.

Today the Daily Post have published an article stating that the IPC have been given powers to 'fast track' two major infrastructure projects on Ynys Mon, the Wylfa B and the offshore windfarm.

The Daily Post believe that the use of the IPC to decide on planning matters in Wales is so significant that they have published a scathing criticism of the quango which is reproduced below:

Unelected quango is an alarming development.

THE creation of a faceless, unelected quango called the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) to push through highly contentious planning decisions on such matters as nuclear power stations and windfarms is as worrying as it is undemocratic.

This should be seen for what it is – a naked attempt by a Government determined to implement its alternative energy programme speedily by subverting the normal planning process.

Labour are seeking to shoehorn in windfarm developments throughout mainland Britain and our territorial waters regardless of local opposition. That is its democratic right – but it is, or should be, the right of local people to protest at such plans, have their voices heard and, where their local authority agrees with them, to win the day.

How different it will all be in the future when huge developments will be rubber stamped by this quango which will, of course, be based in England. This makes its creation particularly sensitive and controversial here in Wales.

But the key point is that it will deprive every corner of the UK the right to make vital decisions on planning matters of huge importance locally. Inevitably, areas of scenic natural beauty, such as this region, will be more prone to windfarm applications which need to be sited in upland, rural areas.

Among the matters the new quango is set to rule on will be the future of Wylfa B nuclear power station and the 858 square mile windfarm zone planned off the Anglesey coast. These projects, however, are popular with local people desperate for new jobs and investment.

An efficient, unelected quango keen on such developments will be sure to get things off the ground sooner. That would be good news for the Isle of Anglesey and amounts, one might say, to the end justifying the means in these cases.

As far as hard-hit Anglesey is concerned, no-one wishes to see these projects unnecessarily delayed if they have the backing of local people and politicians. But as the Tories point out, allowing far-off officials to make these decisions is stripping away power from elected politicians.

There will no doubt be plenty of alternative developments proposed in North Wales or off our coast which many local people will bitterly oppose. In future, their views will command scant attention and that is unacceptable.

The Daily Post are quite right in their comments albeit three months late in raising this important issue and in their support I wrote the following letter:
Dear Editor,

I quite agree with your Opinion (Unelected quango is an alarming development, Post, March 2nd), the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) is exactly that, an unelected quango and is a ‘body blow to democracy in Wales.’ In fact Plaid Cymru in Wrecsam issued a press release to the Daily Post as far back as the 8th December 2009, about the IPC, where I said "It seems devolution is something that happens to other countries. This is another disturbing example of how Wales, unlike Scotland or Northern Ireland, is unable to make decisions on key issues such as energy and other major planning issues. Clearly we in Wales cannot be trusted to make decisions around our own natural resources. This is just another expensive Quango which excuses ministers from making difficult and unpopular decisions.”

This is yet another example of why we the people of Wales should vote YES in the referendum this year. We cannot allow unelected quangos appointed by Westminster Ministers like John Healey to make important infrastructure decisions without the consent of the democratically elected government of Wales. What is a further disgrace is that Welsh Labour MP’s have allowed their government in Westminster to do this.

I have also written to Lee Robinson one of Wrecsam's Strategic Directors and Lawrence Isted the Chief Planning Officer seeking information on the IPC and asking whether they will make the Planning decisions on the prison that is likely to come to North Wales, I'm still awaiting a reply!


Draig said...

But then on the other hand some of the wind farms that will be going to the IPC for approval are assembly-driven projects that are sketched out in TAN 8.

The IPC approves them, the Assembly gets to hit it's targets without having to worry about NIMBYS scuppering it's progress...or is this just me being cynical?

MH said...

You've prompted me to respond, but it's too big to put as a comment here.


Plaid Queensway said...

It's not just the windfarms we've got to worry about, this quango has authority on a lot more:

public services, railways, large wind farms, power stations, reservoirs, harbours, airports and sewage treatment works.

No doubt this is not an exhaustive list either. Reservoirs especially sounds some major warning bells given past experiences.

This organisation completely by passes the local planning and democratic process. In my opinion it poses a major threat to Wales environmentally, socially and politically. From what I can see, in a nutshell it's about dumping crap in Wales because its convenient and finding a way to get around the planning system and those annoying locals who complicate the process.