North Devon Council today failed in a legal bid to stop a windfarm at Fullabrook Down.
The council had sought a judicial review against the decision by John Hutton MP, the Secretary of State for Business, to grant permission to Devon Wind Power (DWP) Ltd to build the 22 110-metre tall wind turbines.
But their fight against the wind farm ended in failure today when Mr Justice Sullivan, sitting at London’s High Court, came down on the side of the Government.
The judge said he would give reasons for his decision on Friday.
John Hobson QC, for the Council, had argued during a day-long hearing that, when a Government inspector approved DWP’s scheme, he did not give enough weight to the impact on the “distinctive” landscape of the North Devon Downs.
The council says the turbines and associated infrastructure will be an eye-sore on the Taw-Torridge estuary, and the wooded river valleys inland, and could have a serious knock-on effect on tourism and the local economy.
The barrister said: “The plan is for one of the biggest onshore wind farms in England. It really is an enormous structure.
“The council previously had been successful in resisting a wind farm on this site, by reason of its adverse impact.
“This hearing is not merely an attempt to re-run planning issues – it raises issues of law and matter of real importance.”
But lawyers for Devon Wind Power disagreed and urged the judge to take a more national, or even global view of the issue, in light of the growing importance of renewable energy taking the place of dwindling fossil fuel supplies.
In her witness statement before the court, DWP’s solicitor Elizabeth Dunn said: “The Government has set a target of producing 10% of the UK’s electricity requirements from renewable sources by 2010.
“The importance of the UK meeting its 2010 renewable energy targets was given significant weight by the inspector, in recommending that consent be granted.”
Dismissing the council’s challenge today, the judge said: “I am not persuaded, having listened to Mr Hobson for several hours on the subject, that there are arguable grounds on which to seek judicial review in this case.”
The judge described the report of the Government inspector, dealing with the impact of the wind farm on the local landscape, as “most impressive and meticulous.”
Cllr Ricky Knight, Green Party Parliamentary Candidate for North Devon, said: “This is fantastic news and I am so glad that it has been kicked into touch. This will allow Fullabrook to go ahead which is long overdue.
“I was extremely critical of North Devon Council and Devon County Council for fighting this at a public inquiry. When I found out they were taking it to a judicial review I was amazed and serious disappointedThey have squandered huge amounts of public money – over £100,000 – defending the indefensible. Clean, renewable energy schemes are what North Devon needs. This result is absolutely appropriate and defensible – their case was just the opposite.”.
Nobody from Devon Wind Power would comment today, but earlier this year chief executive Keith Pyne said turbines could be operating at Fullabrook by 2010. He said then: “There is a minimum two-year lead in time to buy the turbines, arrange delivery and sort out other operational issues before a wind farm can be built and start to generate electricity.”
Plans for the Fullabrook Down site hit the buffers when North Devon Council opposed planning permission for the site in 2005. Although the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform granted the application last year, the council responded by seeking a judicial review at Christmas. DWP asked the High Court for a quick court hearing so it could meet earlier pre-construction deadlines.
Fullabrook Down, near West Down, is two miles south east of Ilfracombe and was chosen because some of the highest onshore winds in Devon have been recorded there. A spokesman for DWP has said 22 110m turbines would produce enough energy for 37,000 homes.
25 June 2008
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