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Wind farm fight goes to court

Campaigners have gone to the High Court in a fresh bid to stop controversial plans for two wind farms in West Norfolk.

Schemes for the Chiplow and Jack’s Lane developments were approved by a government planning inspector earlier this year after a public inquiry held in Lynn.

But activists who oppose the proposals argue the decisions, which reversed borough council moves to refuse planning permission last year, should be reviewed by communities secretary Eric Pickles.

As previously reported, RES were granted permission to build six, 126.5 metre high turbines at Jack’s Lane, Barwick Road, near Stanhoe, by planning inspector Robert Miller in May.

At the same time, E’On were permitted to build five, 100 metre high turbines at the Chiplow site.

Now, lawyers for Against Turbines At Chiplow (ATAC) and Creakes Action for Protecting the Environment (CAPE), have mounted a legal challenge, for which a hearing was held at the High Court in London on Wednesday.

They argue that Mr Miller’s ruling did not take proper account of the evidence of an expert who suggested the impact of the turbines would be greater than he first thought.

The expert, named as Dr Edis and who was said to have been put forward by E’On, had initially said that the Chiplow scheme would only have a “minor” adverse effect on the fort, but, in his oral evidence, revised that assessment upwards to “moderate” and “noticeable”.

The campaigners also claim his assessment of the harm that would be caused by the Jack’s Lane scheme – which he had classed as “moderate” – would also have to be revised upwards.

But they say that the inspector failed to record or remember Dr Edis’s oral testimony, and reached the conclusion, based on his written evidence, that the harm caused by the two schemes would be “minor” and “moderate” respectively.

They claim the discrepancy was a key material factor in the inspector’s decision and allege that Mr Miller would have been obliged to reject the appeal on the Jack’s Lane development if the harm of the plan on the area had been judged to be substantial, unless there were significant public benefits.

However, lawyers for the government, who are being backed by the wind farm operators, argued that the inspector had been entitled to conclude that the public benefits of renewable energy outweighed the harm that would be caused to the landscape.

They maintained that the inspector’s decision was properly reasoned, dealt with all the issues, and should not be quashed.

As previously reported, opponents of the two schemes have previously argued that they would be visible from the Iron Age Bloodgate Hill Fort.

During the public inquiry held at Lynnsport, English Heritage claimed the schemes, if approved, would “diminish the public experience, perception and understanding” of the historic site.

The judge, Mrs Justice Lang, is expected to give her ruling in writing in the new year.