Saddleworth protestors are hoping that a £5,000 penalty handed out to energy giant E.ON will be the decisive blow in dissuading the firm from persuing a massive windfarm in Denshaw.
E.ON has been ordered to pay the costs incurred by Saddleworth Moors Action Group (SMAG) after the multinational pulled out of a Government appeal.
It had hoped to persuade a senior member of the Government planning inspectorate to overturn Oldham Council’s rejection of its scheme to build a seven-turbine windfarm, with 300-foot-high structures, on the moors.
However, just weeks before the appeal – including a public enquiry – was to be heard, E.ON pulled out.
This left SMAG with a £5,000 consultancy and legal bill that it had incurred in preparation for the fight. The voluntary organisation duly asked for E.ON to meet this bill as it had been responsible for them running up.
Now, in a six page judgement, the planning inspectorate has sided with the protestors and told E.ON to cough up. It has also made it clear that it does not take kindly to applicants using the planning appeal procedure in what it sees as an unreasonable manner.
The report adds that E.ON had clearly misjudged the strength of feeling against the windfarm in a sensitive area of the South Pennines. It should have taken into account the support SMAG had received from Phil Woolas, who was a local goverment minister at the time, and Chris Davies MEP, the Lib Dem leader on environmental matters in the European Parliament.
It was unreasonable to expect SMAG to have to foot the £5,000 bill it had run up for an appeal that E.ON decided to pull out of just weeks before the hearing date was due.
Davis Makin, chairman of SMAG, said this week: “This draws to a close a hard fought battle to protect our precious Saddleworth countryside against the quite ruthless tactics of a German-based, multi-national energy company. Perhaps our only regret is that it did not actually reach the public enquiry stage, as we are convinced we would have won
“With this recovery of our costs and other fundraising events in the pipeline we want to give out a strong message that we will fight any application to site a windfarm in Saddleworth and, indeed, anywhere else in the borough. This area is heavily populated and this narrow belt of wild moorland is the only thing that separates the conurbations of South East Lancashire and West Yorkshire.”
Mr Makin added: “OMBC planning department would also have had to appear at the public enquiry to defend their riginal recommendation to reject the planning application. They chose to have separate legal representation at the enquiry and so they must also have incurred significant legal costs. SMAG advised them that we were applying for costs on the grounds of untimely withdrawal of the appeal, yet they decided that they would not attempt to retrieve the council’s costs.”
Cllr Howard Sykes, leader of the opposition Liberal Democrats in Oldham, said he was “gobsmacked” that the council had not incurred costs that could have been claimed back.
# In a further positive development, we revealed last week that United Utilities, which owns the land the windfarm was earmarked for, has given approval for much of the area to become a conservation site.
3 October 2007
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding