Campaigners fighting plans to build a wind-farm in countryside near Crediton are celebrating a decision to quash the planning permission for the scheme.
The campaign group, Den Brook Judicial Review, had won the right to mount a High Court challenge to renewable energy company RES’s permission to build nine 125-metre-tall turbines on land between Bow, Spreyton and North Tawton.
They were given leave to appeal against the decision on the issue of noise levels.
But the High Court hearing was cancelled on Friday when the group succeeded in getting the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Hazel Blears, to quash the planning permission for the Den Brook Wind Farm as a result of its legal actions.
Campaign spokesman, Mike Hulme, said: “A consent order, signed at the last minute by the secretary of state’s office, RES and ourselves, details the reasons why the secretary of state has agreed the inspector’s decision was in error.
“The agreement remains subject to court ratification at which time further details will become available. RES’s wind-farm application will now go back into the planning system and it will be for the planning inspectorate to determine the next step.
“The consent order effectively concedes that approval for the wind farm was unlawful but there remains unresolved planning issues which will need to be addressed should the matter be pursued.”
Mr Hulme said the group was ‘very pleased’ that its case had set the precedent that neighbours to wind-farm sites had the right to raw environmental data, previously withheld by developers.
He added: “This is so that claims and assessments produced in support of applications can be adequately verified and if necessary challenged during the planning process. As we have discovered, developers’ claims are not always a fair reflection of the realities of the situation.
“We are now in a position to assist anyone who feels that vital information is being unfairly withheld and are able to share our knowledge and experience – please contact us; we are keen to help if we can.”
West Devon Borough Council rejected RES’s application for the wind farm in the Den Brook Valley in 2006. But in February 2007 the planning inspector reversed the decision and gave the company the go-ahead for the project.
The campaigners said that the information provided by the company on noise levels was incorrect – a claim since admitted by the energy producers. But RES said the difference between their calculations and actual noise levels would not be noticeable.
On June 10 this year, the Court of Appeal ruled that the new noise evidence was significant and granted Mr Hulme leave to appeal.
Before the planned hearing a company spokeswoman said: “RES is sorry that this error occurred, but can reassure local residents that we are taking steps to correct the error as quickly as possible.
“We are ready to build this project and are confident that it will sit well in the area. We took great care to design the wind farm so that it would not be a noise nuisance.”
30 July 2008
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