RWE npower renewables has warned it could launch legal action over new planning rules introduced in Milton Keynes that restrict the development of onshore wind turbines.
Milton Keynes Council adopted a new Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) in July, which places restrictions on wind turbines in relation to their proximity to houses.
Following a consultation, the Council increased the previous 350 metre minimum separation distance that wind turbines can be installed from dwellings to between 600 metres and 1 kilometre, depending on the height of the turbine.
The decision was made on the grounds that newer and larger machines have a greater visual impact on the surrounding area, including visibility, noise, and shadow flicker.
However, RWE maintains the new plan clashes with national guidance and has not been through the correct statutory process. It has written twice to the Council asking for the plans to be retracted and raised concerns during the initial consultation on the rules.
The company also cited an independent report commissioned by the Council, which concluded the plan was flawed and did not provide clear or effective guidance for councillors.
“We agree and support policies that advocate responsibly and sensibly located developments,” said Wayne Cranstone, RWE’s onshore development and projects director.
“In this case though we believe Milton Keynes Council has sought to make a significant change to policy without going through the appropriate consultation and scrutiny necessary.”
Solicitors acting on behalf of RWE renewables yesterday warned that if the council refuses to withdraw the SPD it could start judicial review proceedings.
The company has applications for two wind farms – the 24MW Nun Wood project and the 15MW Orchard Way wind farm – in the Milton Keynes area, which could be impacted by the decision.
Cranstone added that both industry and local communities need a predictable and transparent planning regime, including a robust planning process for renewable energy projects to protect future investment decisions.
“We have tried several times to communicate our concerns with Milton Keynes Council, both as part of their own consultation process on the draft policy and by writing to the Council,” he said.
“In our latest correspondence we’ve advised again that we believe the SPD is flawed and asked for it to be withdrawn. Unfortunately, we may be in a position that there is no further alternative but to challenge the SPD within the High Courts at Judicial Review. This is also the advice from senior legal counsel.”
A spokesman for Milton Keynes Council was formulating a response to the news at the time of going to press.
The move comes just a week after David Cameron appointed John Hayes as Energy Minister, despite his campaign against wind farm developments in his Lincolnshire constituency.
Hayes has subsequently said that he supports wind farms in principle, but only if they are appropriately sited and has argued that flat fenland areas are not a suitable location for large wind farms.
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