North Devon District Council will seek to fight the Government’s decision to grant planning permission for a wind farm at Fullabrook Down in the High Court.
The council’s reaction to the news that the 22-turbine scheme had been given the green light was swift and resolute.
Just 24 hours after Energy Minister Malcolm Wicks announced what the council has called an “extremely damaging decision”, councillors voted to make immediate representation to the Minister, request the assistance of North Devon MP Nick Harvey, and to seek grounds for a judicial review of inspector Dr Chris Gossop’s decision.
Leader of the council Cllr Michael Harrison told fellow councillors that “the vast majority” of people in North Devon were “devastated” by the decision.
“The massive size of these turbines will irrevocably damage the North Devon landscape,” he said.
“It is a sad day for residents of this area who will have to live with this monstrosity.”
Support in the council for the 66megawatt development by Devon Wind Power was scarce. Just two councillors voiced their approval of the inspector’s decision.
Cllr David Butt said the council was “honour-bound by people in North Devon to challenge this decision”.
“They would expect us to do it,” he said.
Cllr Brian Greenslade said the council should go ahead with a judicial review in “full confidence”.
“This wouldn’t be the first time that a Minister’s decision be overturned by a court,” he said.
On Monday, Malcolm Easton, the council’s head of planning and development services, told the Gazette that a judicial review – a type of court proceeding in which a judge reviews the lawfulness of a decision made by a public body – was the only means by which the council could challenge the decision.
“We have already instructed our barrister to look at whether the council has a case for a judicial review,” he said.
“The legislation says that such an application must be made as soon as possible, or no later than three months after the decision,” he said.
Mr Easton said that although the council was “angered and disappointed” by the decision, it was not against wind farms.
“The council sees that there is a role for wind farms in North Devon but believes that a wind farm of this scale and position is unacceptable,” he said.
“We will be making strong representation to the Energy Minister and we will be seeking to enlist the support of the local Member of Parliament in making those representations.”
But supporters of the scheme called the council’s decision to fight the decision “deplorable”.
Rosemary Brian, of the Green Business Forum, said fighting the decision in the High Court would cost the council “tens of thousands of pounds”.
“They have spent at least £100,000 opposing these applications at enquiries in the past, but things have moved on since then,” she said.
“Planning laws have changed and local authorities now have to encourage renewable energy projects, not obstruct them.
“Public opinion has also shifted: the council has underestimated people’s support of renewable energy and their anxiety about climate change.
“I attended almost every day of the public inquiry and got a good feeling about how people felt about renewable energy, particularly young people.
“Councillors did not attend the inquiry, particularly in the later stages when members of the public were allowed to have their say.
“The council is living in the past and is in a state of shock at the moment because they didn’t see this decision coming.”
Mrs Brian said that the council had ignored public support of the scheme.
She said: “A Green Business Forum visitor survey found that 90 per cent of visitors said that a wind farm would make no difference to them returning to North Devon; that five percent were less likely to come; and that a further five per cent were more likely to come to the region.
“A Green Party survey of residents in Barnstaple, Braunton and West Down, found 78.1 per cent overall, in favour of the scheme,” she added.
17 October 2007
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