Wrexham Energy Centre
E-mail to the Planning Inspectorate from Mr Stephen Whitby below:
I write regarding the recent granting of access to private property for surveys and the like on behalf of the Secretary of State to Wrexham Power Limited with the reason being that otherwise it would delay their project!
In the interest of brevity, and so that the point is not lost, supporting detail has been limited. Susan Elan Jones MP has however been supplied with all of the relevant facts, other elected representatives are being contacted as there are serious issues raised by this flawed decision.
It is very disappointing that the Planning Inspectorate (PI) in balancing the rights of an individual against the wishes of private business appears to have a bias in favour of the latter in granting access onto private property under Section 53 of the 2008 Planning Act. Can you tell me what proportion of Section 53 requests are actually turned down, and how many has the PI received in the last 12 months?
It is confusing to the layperson when a Government Minister responsible for Energy instructs WPL in writing not to commence environmental surveys before ?firming up? their designs, and yet another Minister with responsibility for authorising access (Communities) allows these surveys apparently unaware of his colleague?s advice. What possible interpretation can anyone put on the words in the Scoping opinion?
It is surprising when an experienced developer with statutory powers undertaking a similar activity of high voltage power lines adjacent to this proposal has submitted 153 pages of detail even before consultation with landowners; this proposal by WPL who have no prior experience has 4 paragraphs plus a map. Is this a question of the Planning Act not requiring any thoroughness or detail from a developer?
It is disappointing that the PI has advised a Government Minister saying that guidance no longer requires the Section 53 process to be used a last resort when the current guidance plainly states that it is only to be used as a last resort. (I am sure this ?error? will be rectified in a re-issue of the guidance in favour of business not the individual). Why was such a statement made, and to whom is the person who made it accountable?
It is disappointing that a private company can gain access onto private property without notification of what part of that property they want access to, prior to an application under Section 53. Is there no requirement now for a developer to consult, and why did the PI not recognise the obscuration of the truth in the WPL answers when you sought additional clarification from them on this point?
It is immoral for a private company to support their application with statements that are demonstrably untrue in order to influence the PI. Susan Jones MP and Welsh Assembly Government Members having being advised in writing by the companies involved of contradictory facts. What action is the PI going to take? Surely the PI depend on honesty and integrity from proposers of what are called Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects. The WPL project is a NSIP by definition only because of the proposed electricity export. In reality it is an opportunistic venture with no local necessity or benefit, the benefit being reserved for the promoters of the scheme to the cost of local communities, residents and businesses. Had the 2008 Planning Act been properly drafted no such project should acquire what appears to be a bias to automatic approval unless there was a need of vital importance to the well-being of the UK.
It is concerning that the application for access by WPL is addressed using first name terms knowing how well established St Modwen is in public sector building works. Please advise me on what other projects the PI is working closely with St Modwen, Glenfinnan or the individuals on the board of Wrexham Power? I have similar concerns in respect of close links with the Assembly Government in Cardiff.
It is extremely disappointing that private individuals have to spend significant sums of their own money in a futile attempt to counter the legal experts of the Government and city law firms of private business. This seems extraordinarily unjust. Having had sight of recent correspondence from the SOS, I am concerned that legal team within the PI will expend effort to justify the actions above rather than management seek an explanation.
Following the action of the PI in granting access under Section 53 are you aware that the PI further assist the developer by re-inforcing their negociating position with every other landowner?
To date I believed we lived in a free democratic society which valued freedom and privacy. I appreciate that the PI have a role to carry out the wishes of Government and therefore we need to address our concerns of this process to our elected representatives as well, but we have a right, as tax payers, to expect those who carry out the wishes of Government to do so in way that respects the wishes of citizens
Response from the Planning Inspectorate attached.