The challenge against plans to create the nation’s biggest wind farm on an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in Devon has failed.
High Court Judge Mr Justice Sullivan dismissed North Devon District Council’s claims that the impact of 22 turbines standing at 110 metres tall at Fullabrook Down, North Devon, outweighed the benefits they would provide.
The judge will outline the reasons behind his decision tomorrow, but yesterday he put an end to a fight which has lasted for two decades.
Speaking after the decision, Bob Barfoot, chairman of the North Devon branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), said: “Of course we are very disappointed by this decision. There are a lot of people who don’t want these turbines on Fullabrook.
“It will have a great impact on people’s lives, both visually and from the noise generated by the propellers. But there is nothing we can do now.”
In October last year Energy Minister Malcolm Wickes gave his backing to the project, saying it was necessary for the Government “to make tough choices” if it was to achieve its “clean energy objectives”.
John Hutton, Secretary of State for Business, granted permission to Devon Wind Power (DWP) Ltd to build the turbines on the land last year, a decision which outraged the local community.
The Government sees the wind farm as a major part of its bid to reach its own target of producing 10 per cent of the UK’s electricity requirement through renewable means by 2010.
North Devon District Council has blocked two previous proposed wind farms in the area and says the “enormous structures” will blight residents’ lives with noise pollution, as well as putting off tourists.
John Hobson QC, for the council, yesterday 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 eyesore 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.
Mr Hobson said: “The plan is for one of the biggest onshore wind farms in England. It really is an enormous structure.
“The council previously has 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 DWP disagreed and urged the judge to take a more national or even global view of the issue, acknowledging 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 importance of the UK meeting its 2010 renewable energy targets was given significant weight by the inspector, in recommending that consent be granted.”
The judge agreed and while he is not due to outline his reasons until Friday, he 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.”
And he described the report of the Government inspector, dealing with the impact of the wind farm on the local landscape, as “most impressive and meticulous”.
26 June 2008
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