Villagers scored a major victory over the wind farm and green lobby yesterday.
A High Court judge ruled their right to preserve their landscape was more important than the Government’s renewable energy targets.
Mrs Justice Lang said building four 350ft turbines would harm the character and appearance of a beauty spot on the edge of the Norfolk Broads.
The proposal from Sea & Land Power and Energy had already been rejected by both council and government inspectors.
In what will be seen as a landmark ruling, the judge agreed, saying lower carbon emissions did not take ‘primacy’ over the concerns of the people of Hemsby.
Maria Ellis, a landscape gardener who petitioned against the turbines, said: ‘This has been hanging over us for ages because the company kept proposing it over and over again which just smacked of arrogance.
‘Norfolk is renowned for its open skyline which has inspired stories and poetry and literature. The site is on a hill between two villages and we already have wind turbines to the north, west and east.
‘It is overdevelopment, you can’t cover the hills and dales in turbines.’
Tory MP Brandon Lewis, who lives in Hemsby, said: ‘This decision should really set a precedent for planning officers, inspectors and courts to give weight to the feelings of local people in protecting their environment. It really shows that local people who are organised and feel passionately can have an impact and make a difference.
‘In Great Yarmouth, we have several wind farms nearby, and renewable energy is a huge part of our economy. Wind energy is important but it has to be in the right place and should not have a negative impact on the community or the countryside we love.’
The proposed wind farm was fewer than 300 yards from the edge of the Broads national park and around 800 yards from homes in Hemsby.
Villagers said they feared over-development because there were already three wind farms within three miles.
Ministers have made onshore and offshore turbines a central plank of their plans to plug Britain’s looming energy gap. At least 340 farms are up and running with many more planned.
Suffolk-based Sea & Land had said their four turbines could supply 5,500 homes – or around 14 per cent of the energy needs of the Great Yarmouth borough council area.
But the local planning inspector kicked out the bid, saying: ‘The development would result in material harm to the character and appearance of the area because of its scale and location and the cumulative impacts of other similar developments.’
The inspector said the existing wind farms were ‘visually prominent in this simple, attractive, tranquil landscape with its scattered villages and farmsteads’.
Sea & Land took the case to the High Court in London, insisting that the East of England had failed to meet its energy targets for 2010 and was unlikely to meet the Whitehall target to generate 17 per cent of energy from low-carbon sources by 2020.
Yesterday Mrs Justice Lang backed the inspector, saying Sea & Land’s point about its 2009 proposal was ‘unarguable’.
‘I do not accept that the inspector ought to have disregarded the local landscape policies in the light of the national policies,’ she said.
‘As a matter of law it is not correct to assert that the national policy promoting the use of renewable resources … negates the local landscape policies or must be given primacy over them.
‘This is simply a case of policies pulling in different directions: harm to landscape and the benefits of renewable energy. The inspector was required to have regard to both sets of policies and to undertake a balancing exercise.’
Yesterday Roy Pinnock, an expert in planning law at the firm SNR Denton, said the case may bolster other villagers fighting wind farm projects.
‘It shows planning is all about balancing competing interests, and there will be a complex web of considerations in each case,’ he added.
‘There is a great emphasis on renewables, but this shows no one can claim that any particular outcome is preordained and it’s crucial that developers make an irresistible case for their development.’
Sea & Land can now take the case to the Court of Appeal.
Cally Smith, of the Broads Authority, said the turbines would have had a ‘significant and adverse impact on the protected landscape of the Broads’.
She added: ‘This is not acceptable. There are other places which are better suited to accommodate development such as this.’
But Robert Norris of Renewable UK, the trade body for the wind industry, said the judge was wrong to suggest the case would have a wider impact.
‘It is absolutely vital for any developer to look at the impact on the landscape and wildlife before they can even think about going ahead with a project, but planners also have to consider the need to keep the lights on by generating electricity from sources that are clean and meet our carbon targets.’
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