The inquiry into windfarms in Tynedale threatened to grind to a halt this week as the barrister for Tynedale District Council suggested there was a case for adjourning proceedings.
Anthony Crean QC said the applicants had failed to provide sufficient information on the grid connections outlined in their environmental impact assessments.
This, he told the Inspector, David Rose, would have to be dealt with sooner rather than later as failure to do so could have a knock-on effect on how the inquiry progresses.
Mr Rose heard responses from the three applicants, but has not yet made a decision on the matter.
The inquiry – now ending its second week – is focused on applications by Wind Prospect Developments Ltd, Amec Project Investment Ltd, and Steadings Windfarm Ltd, all of which want to build around the Knowesgate area.
In total, 59 turbines are proposed and objections have come from many quarters.
Mr Rose has been appointed to preside over the inquiry by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform.
On Tuesday, proceedings were put aside for legal argument to be heard.
Mr Crean said Tynedale Council itself was not applying for an adjournment, but he was urging the Inspector to consider that there may be a case for calling one.
Referring to the relevant legislation, he suggested the connections should be seen as part and parcel of the developments, and that adequate detail should therefore be supplied.
Even if this were not so, he added, the connections were an “indirect effect” and should thus be considered at the earliest opportunity.
The main question, he suggested, was whether pursuing the inquiry was now pointless without supplementary information.
“That is an important question for us to ask and answer at this stage, because we submit that you have to consider what are the consequences of continuing with this inquiry and what are the consequences of not continuing with this inquiry?” he said.
“If we continue with this inquiry we are going to sit for three months listening to evidence as to the acceptability of the applications in these contemporary circumstances, in the winter and spring of 2008.
“If supplementary information arises in due course and undermines, or requires reconsideration of, the information we have today or in the next three months, that will render entirely academic and historic the discussion we are having now.”
Vincent Fraser QC, for Wind Prospect – which wants to build 18 turbines at Green Rigg Fell near Sweethope Lough – said environmental statements were only meant to include what was “reasonably required” for the inquiry.
He stressed that whereas previously judgements on these statements had lain with the planning authority – in Wind Prospect’s case Tynedale Council – they were now the responsibility of the Inspector.
Wind Prospect, he said, had already addressed the issue of the grid connection and concluded that no major environmental effects were anticipated.
Andrew Newcombe, for Steadings – which wants to build 21 turbines near Great Bavington – said he agreed with these points, adding that at no time had the council raised the issue before.
Steadings had provided all the information currently available on the grid connection, and considered the connection to be entirely distinct from the windfarm itself.
Colin Innes, a solicitor acting for Amec – which wants 20 turbines on the Ray Estate near Kirkwhelpington – also said there was no reason to adjourn over this issue.
Yesterday, the inquiry was continuing, with the Inspector’s judgement on the grid connections not expected until next week.
Witnesses are still being called on the first issue before the inquiry – renewable energy background, planning policy and need.
Next week, the inquiry is expected to move on to issues surrounding the construction, noise, and landscape and visual impact of the windfarms.
Closing submissions will not be made until at least the first week of April.
By Robert Gibson
25 January 2008
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding