A radical shake-up of Britain’s planning laws is going to be announced today which will make it easier for the government to fast-track or steam-roll large energy projects such as nuclear, gas or power stations or even wind turbines.
In all the government will publish six “National Policy Statements” on energy this afternoon, including – most controversially – spelling out its plans for nuclear and coal plants.
The new national Policy statements will feed into the Infrastructure Planning Commission that will oversee the big infrastructure projects, by-passing local councils and even public inquiries.
In short the new laws by-pass some of the cornerstones of democracy. In fact the government announcement signals the death-knell of democracy, as the public will have their right to object removed.
Even the opposition Conservatives have said the plans “democratic legitimacy”.
Labour Ministers hope the reforms will avoid lengthy public inquiries such as the six-year epic inquiry into the Sizewell B. Ther is no doubt that this will encourage companies such as E.ON, RWE npower and EDF to produce a new generations of UK power stations as early as 2017.
The government has defended its actions. Mr Miliband, the Climate Change and Energy Secretary said “the national policy statements and Infrastructure Planning Commission are important, because the truth is that we are not going to be able to deliver a 21st Century energy system with a 20th Century planning system.”
But environmental groups have already warned that the government could be open to legal challenge if the statements do not properly consider climate change.
And the government is still arguing that nuclear is low carbon. Miliband said: “The basic message here is, we can’t say no to all of the nuclear or all of the low carbon fuels that are out there”.
The government still takes a blinkered position on nuclear and its environmental and climatic impact. As the Observer pointed out yesterday:
“The UK has justified its planned expansion of nuclear power partly on the basis that it provides low-emission energy. However, the energy used in drilling, blasting, excavating, separating and transporting the uranium to Britain are not taken into account.
In an article on the impact on mining in Namibia, where the uranium will be extracted said simply: “Britain’s nuclear strategy threatens destruction of Kalahari.”
And you can bet the new Infrastructure Planning Commission will not examine the ecological impact of uranium mining either before rubber stamping approval.