A council has lost a landmark legal battle in the High Court to ban one of Britain’s largest energy companies from building wind farms near homes.
The German-owned RWE npower went to court after Milton Keynes council tried to impose a 1.2 kilometre exclusion zone around local residential areas to block two of its planned onshore wind farms. National guidelines require that developers build wind farms no closer than 350 metres.
The ruling is likely to make it harder for other councils looking to impose similar restrictions, including Stratford-on-Avon, Cherwell in Oxfordshire, Wiltshire and Staffordshire.
Milton Keynes Borough Council in Buckinghamshire said that if a turbine was more than 100 metres high, the minimum distance from houses should be one kilometre and the zone extended further for taller turbines. It said the 350-metre exclusion zone should apply only to 25-metre turbines. The 17 turbines that RWE npower wants have a maximum height of 127 metres. The closest homes are 675 metres away.
Judge John Howells, QC, said that the council’s new policy of using a sliding scale of distances contradicted its existing development plan for the area, which recommends a minimum distance of 350 metres, in line with national guidance.
Seeking the judicial review, RWE npower had argued that if the plan by Milton Keynes’ council was upheld, other planning authorities might adopt similar policies which would put “any proposal at risk of rejection” and “nullify” national guidance which encouraged the development of renewable energy.
Dr Wayne Cranstone, RWE npower renewables onshore development and projects director, said: “Some particularly Conservative authorities are trying to address this Conservative idea of localism and the Big Society and put it into their policy. We said it’s not in line with national policy [on renewable energy]. There is a conflict.”;
He argued that councils should take into account whether hills separated planned wind farms from homes for example rather than issuing blanket bans.
The pace of construction of onshore wind farms is up 60 per cent since last year with 763 turbines due to be installed this year. Another 7,843 turbines have planning approval but have not yet been built. Some 4,369 turbines are already in operation.
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