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Lawmen thwart "˜risky' challenge

www.rochdaleobserver.co.uk

A legal challenge which could have blocked the proposed £50M windfarm on Scout Moor has been thwarted ““ by new legislation.

Solicitor Edward Smethurst of Ashworth Brook Farm, Norden, who has extensive property rights on the moors, had planned what he described as an “˜extremely courageous, expensive and risky step’ to fight a government department decision.

Mr Smethurst said in May Defra ““ the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs ““ had forcibly removed his property rights on Scout Moor, where the new windfarm is to be built.

As a result he served notice on Defra that he was seeking a judicial review, which, had it been successful, would have effectively prevented the windfarm from going ahead.

But now he’s learned of new legislation ““ the Commons Act 2006 ““ which only received parliamentary approval on 19 July.

He said: “Defra have pointed to the new Act giving them brand new powers to deal with the very objections raised by my legal challenge.

“Therefore, even if my legal challenge succeeds and the decision to remove my property rights over the affected areas of Scout Moor is overturned, the new legislation will result in the developers simply being able to re-apply to Defra, under its new powers, for a new order forcibly removing my property rights.”

A disappointed Mr Smethurst said the best he could now achieve by a legal challenge was only to defer the windfarm, which was given the go-ahead after a long and detailed planning inquiry last year.

“Commencing a judicial review and a legal challenge is an extremely courageous, expensive and risky step for me, as a private individual, to take and fund personally.

“The new act of parliament, passed only a couple of weeks ago, however contains new provisions and new powers which enables Defra to thwart my legal challenge.

“This means the costs and risks involved now outweigh any potential benefit to be obtained from winning the challenge.”

Mr Smethurst said as a result he saw little point in pursuing the case and instead would make a “˜substantial’ donation to the Friends of Scout and Knowl Moor, who had backed him in his legal challenge.

He added: “Now that Defra has responded to my legal challenge and now that the new Commons Bill has been passed by parliament, it regrettably appears to be crystal clear that both Defra and the government are very strongly pushing for such windfarms to proceed.”

Peel Holdings was not available for comment as the Observer went to press.
Dave Appleton