Sometimes we say things without really thinking through what they mean. We all do it, and the secretary of state is probably no exception. Accordingly, it was very helpful of an inspector, dealing with two called-in applications for a wind farm expansion in Lancashire (DCS Number 200-006-601), to explain the implications of a written ministerial statement to him.
The inspector determined that the transitional provisions set out in the written ministerial statement made on 18 June 2015 (WMS) applied. This WMS provides that in such instances, local planning authorities can find the proposal acceptable if, following consultation, they are satisfied it has addressed the planning impacts identified by affected local communities and therefore has their backing.
Many local residents argued that the WMS means that local people should have the final say and they considered that the scheme did not address their concerns. To the inspector’s mind, however, the part of the WMS that provides “and therefore has their backing” means that if the secretary of state is satisfied that the proposal has appropriately addressed the planning impacts identified by affected local communities, as a consequence, it would have their backing. If the secretary of state took a different view, and found that the ‘backing’ part of the sentence should be given a meaning detached from the ‘addressed’ part, then it would be necessary to devise some method for gauging and weighing levels of support and objection, the inspector reasoned. He remarked that this would be no easy task; there is no guidance about how it might be done, and nothing in the WMS that implies that compliance with it would be dependent upon the outcome of some form of referendum.
The secretary of state appears to have accepted the inspector’s reasoning, accepting his recommendations in respect of both schemes. In particular, in respect of the second scheme the secretary of state agreed that none of the issues raised by affected communities were of sufficient substance to bring the proposal into conflict with the WMS.
The following DCP section is relevant: 26.532