The government has conceded that its planning and energy policies are sending contradictory signals to councils, after Barry called out this incoherence in June.
In response to Sajid Javid’s decision to call in a proposed surface mine in Northumberland, Barry Gardiner, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for International Trade, Europe, Energy and Climate Change said:
“On those rare occasions when the government clearly does the right thing, the only honourable response is to say well done. When I wrote to the Secretary of State asking him to call in this opencast coal application back in June I did not expect to get such a positive response. I am delighted that he agrees that the proposal exposed a worrying incoherence at the heart of the government’s energy and planning policies.
“It is important that the proper role of local planning authorities is not undermined, but it was invidious to ask the council to take a decision without the proper guidance from government as to what weight to give to competing national objectives. The National decision to end unabated coal generation by 2025 and to meet our targets under the Paris Climate Agreement did not mesh with National Planning Policy guidance on the environment which did not allow the council to consider these wider climate objectives.
"I praise and congratulate the Minister for doing the right thing and would simply say that it is essential for ministers to ensure a smooth and prosperous transition for communities that have historic ties to the coal industry. They must deliver the job and investment opportunities of the new, clean, low-carbon industries that will power Britain's future."
Barry wrote to the government and local councillors in July ahead of Northumberland county council’s meeting on the proposed mine.
Barry warned that, “the Secretary of State has failed in his duty to ensure coherence between the National Policy Planning Framework and the UK’s domestic and international climate change commitments.” He expressed his sympathy with the challenge the councillors faced trying to reconcile these “contradictory signals”.
The Secretary of State will now launch an inquiry into the planning application, which will include an assessment of the project’s coherence with ‘Government policies for meeting the challenge of climate change’ and the coal-phase out commitment made by then Energy Secretary Amber Rudd in November 2015.