A wind farm developer should pay a 15-fold increase in planning fees to progress with plans to erect six turbines, according to an independent report.
Darlington Borough Council has given an assurance it will investigate the findings of the report for the site to the north-east of the town.
However, the applicant Banks Renewables – part of the County Durham-based Banks Group – is confident it has paid the correct fees.
Banks paid £17,465 for its initial application for ten turbines on the land at Moor House Farm, between the villages of Sadberge, Brafferton and Little Stainton.
The plans were refused and the company resubmitted an application for a smaller site.
No further fee was required.
However, opponents to the site believed the fee paid was too small and paid for an independent planning consultant to investigate.
Mike Sibthorp, from Lincolnshire, concluded in his report that the fee should have been themaximum of £250,000 because of the size of the site.
He said: “Our view is that the plans have calculated the area of the site to minimise the footprint. We would argue that if the correct fee has not been paid, then it is not a valid application until the correct fee is paid.”
Hebelieved it invalidated the second application and any appeal on the initial plans.
Ward councillor Brian Jones said he was waiting for feedback from the authority’s officers. However, he said further investigation was needed because of the “phenomenal difference” between the sums.
Justin Hancock, development planner at Banks Renewables, said: “A great deal of work always goes into ensuring that all our proposals are progressed in accordance with planning regulations, and we are wholly confident that everything was in order when we submitted the Moor House wind farm proposal.”
Darlington council has yet to determine the second application.
A spokeswoman said: “We are giving consideration to the letter and will be responding to the points made soon.”
The wind farm, for six turbines up to 125-metres high, would be the borough’s first and provide enough power for between 11,000 and 14,000 homes for 25 years.
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