Taxpayers in a Northumberland borough could be forced to pick up a bill totalling hundreds of thousands of pounds following their local authority’s refusal of wind farm applications.
Berwick Borough Council refused three proposals on Thursday and was immediately faced with the prospect of developers challenging its decisions – with one having already confirmed that will happen.
Appeals could result in public inquiries at which the council would be expected to hire barristers and expert witnesses.
There is also the possibility the council could have to pay the appellant’s costs if it loses and the planning inspector rules it acted unreasonably in refusing in the first place.
The costs which would be incurred by the borough council could be expected to run into hundreds of thousands of pounds.
The authority is already facing an estimated £125,000 bill after Ridgewind Ltd announced it is to appeal and seek a public inquiry following refusal of plans for turbines at Wandylaw. And this could double to £250,000 if the hearing is lost and the council has to pay the developer’s costs.
Alnwick District Council recently invested £100,000 opposing a wind farm application at Middlemoor, also at a public inquiry.
This amount could further increase as the authority has to defend its policy on renewable energy against a high court challenge from the applicant. And Tynedale Council has so far spent £290,000 opposing three applications for turbines in its boundaries at an ongoing public inquiry, having originally set aside £200,000 for this purpose.
Campaigners against wind farms in the Berwick area said planners had made the right decision despite the potential costs involved.
Andrew Joicey, of the Save Our Unspoilt Landscape group, said large Government subsidies available to developers of renewable energy projects are the reason why applicants are keen to appeal when refused permission.
He questioned how much the council would be prepared to spend defending decisions, two of which were against officer recommendations.
But Mr Joicey guessed it would cost taxpayers at least £50,000 in the event of a public inquiry – an amount he said could bankrupt some small authorities which have limited resources.
He said: “Although the cost of fighting a public inquiry might seem horrific in terms of the budget for a small local council like Berwick Borough Council, the bigger picture is that there is so much for the borough to lose if any one of these wind farms were to go ahead.
“Despite the inevitable cost of public inquiries, the council has made the right decision in protecting what is important to them and the area and people they represent, and they should be proud of themselves for what they have done.”
By Brian Daniel
31 March 2008
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