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High Court challenge against 100m turbines

A parish councillor in Cornwall opposed to plans for five 100-metre-tall wind turbines at a farm near his home has launched a High Court challenge to the scheme.

William Corbett, who lives at Tolcarne Merock and is a member of St Mawgan Parish Council, is asking Mr Justice Lewis, in London, to quash Cornwall Council’s decision to grant planning permission to REG Windpower for the wind farm at Higher Denzell Farm, St Mawgan, near Newquay.

Barrister Saira Sheikh argued on his behalf that the grant of permission was unlawful for a number of reasons. Among other things, she claimed the council failed to meet its material obligations in not reconvening its strategic planning committee to reconsider the application in light of national planning policy changes.

The committee passed a resolution that it was minded to grant permission in September 2011, but the final decision was taken by a planning officer in April 2012 – after the Government introduced the final version of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) in March that year.

Ms Sheikh said: “The matter should have been returned to committee in order to consider the application in the light of the material changes in national policy that had taken place since September 2011. The failure to do so renders the decision flawed in law.”

She said that the officer had a duty to refer the matter back to committee for reconsideration unless it was clear that the change would have had no impact on the decision of the committee.

In this case, she said that there had been a number of highly significant changes in circumstances, and that the NPPF “signalled a change in the Government’s approach to national policy”.

She said that the NPPF stated that economic growth was an important objective of the planning system, but the amendments changed the focus to give more weight to environmental concerns.

She added: “It cannot reasonably be said that it is clear that the change would have made no difference to the committee’s decision.”

She claimed that the council also failed to provide adequate summary of their reasons for granting permission or include an adequate summary of the relevant policies.

She argued that it failed to have any proper regard to policies of its own Restormel Local Plan and failed to acknowledge the supremacy of that development plan in its decision making process.

As a result, she claimed that it neglected to make available to the public all relevant documents, failed to have proper regard to European regulations for the protection of bats, and failed to conduct a proper balancing exercise in light of all relevant information, including its statutory duties in relation to listed buildings and biodiversity in the area.

The hearing is scheduled to last two days, after which the judge is expected to reserve judgment in order to give it in writing at a later date.