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Windfarm group launches action against council

Windfarm objectors are taking Highland Council to court over its approval of a 17-turbine scheme at Edinbane on Skye alleging the authority’s consent of Amec’s planning application breached EU environment legislation.

The Skye Windfarm Action Group (Swag) Ltd, which has opposed the project for more than five years, has been given a date of July 2008 for a judicial review at the Court of Session in Edinburgh and has said it will seek an interim interdict should the developer begin construction work in the meantime.

The Edinbane application was approved in March at a Portree hearing attended by fewer than half of the members of Highland Council’s planning committee.

Planning director John Rennilson has previously insisted the council would not have given its consent without “following procedure”.

Swag claims the council failed to ensure that the planning application was accompanied by a sufficient environmental impact assessment, that it failed to outline reasons for not considering alternative sites, that it failed to consider a potential flood risk from the scheme and claims there were procedural anomalies concerning planning consent for a borrow pit (quarry).

The group claims the council breached EU habitats legislation regarding possible implications for the neighbouring Cuillins Special Protection Area and blanked the guidance of its own costly renewable energy strategy.

Swag also argues that the council acted unlawfully by granting planning consent during an EU investigation into an alleged breach of the EU habitats directive. The EU is yet to announce its findings.

Swag chairman John Hodgson said: “We consider it appalling that the public must launch such an action at its own expense to ensure that the law is upheld – something that Highland Council, the Scottish Executive and Scottish Natural Heritage should be doing.”

Neither Highland Council nor SNH would comment, but David Hodkinson, managing director of Amec’s wind energy business, said: “We are aware of Swag’s petition for judicial review and have given instructions to our legal advisers in relation to this matter.

“We hope for a speedy resolution and remain grateful for the strong support we are receiving from the local community.”

Judicial review is a specialised Court of Session procedure that can be used to challenge the decision-making process of public bodies.

Press and Journal

17 July 2007