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The new Planning Guidance for renewable and low carbon energy contains a number of implications for heritage. Here’s one we think is crucial: “Community initiatives are likely to play an increasingly important role and should be encouraged as a way of providing positive local benefit from renewable energy“

Let’s not be coy. They mean bribes. They’re already in use and work like a dream. They’re rather clever: the Government is criticised for the system being skewed in favour of the developers and Griff Rhyss Jones neatly summarised the complaint this week: “The Parish Council and all the locals turn it down, and then the District Council turns it down … and then an inspector arrives from the Government and promptly allows it through…..” But now it’s going to be different. No need for an Inspector to frustrate local wishes because quite often they’ll have said yes in exchange for a new cricket pavilion. The Government won’t be the bad guys, they’ll have nothing to do with it, honest, they’re just champions of local decision making. Everyone’s a winner and Dave’s your friend.

To us it seems wrong that many landscapes – and the settings of heritage assets – aren’t going to be given at least a chance of being fairly judged on their merits, and sometimes saved. Cricket pavilions carry a lot more weight at local level and the greenest government ever has failed to point out something damnable about local “bribes”. It’s this: those monuments may not be merely of local significance but regional or national significance – so what about the rest of the public who are also stakeholders in the monument and it’s setting and are far more numerous than the locals as well as less biased and less bribed? Don’t they get a say? Clearly not. Which is why we described the system as “rather clever”. No such thing as Society if all you need to do is slip some yokels a few quid.

A spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government said:  ‘This represents a significant increase in protection for England’s heritage and landscape, ensuring that the local environment and local amenity is given the protection it deserves.” He was later detained under the Hypocrisy Act. 

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 See also Part 2

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