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Third judicial review of Northumberland turbine is given approval

A council’s handling of plans for a single wind turbine in Northumberland is being reviewed at the high court for a third time.

A planning application for the generator on a farm near Berwick has twice previously been approved by Northumberland County Council, only for that approval to be quashed following judicial review.

It has since been approved by planners a third time. And now, the council’s handling of the application has been subject to a third bid for judicial review.

The man behind the three challenges told The Journal he believed councillors would be asking questions about the cost of judicial reviews to date, with those standing at £26,000.

The applicant blamed “nitpicking” for the fact he has not been able to proceed, despite being given approval three times.

The application for a 100kW turbine is from John and George Barber of Brackenside Farm.

It was first approved by the council in February 2012, in line with an officer’s recommendation.

However, Andrew Joicey, who farms at Cornhill and who had objected to the application, sought a judicial review of the council’s handling of the proposal, listing eight points on which he believed it had erred.

The authority accepted either fully or in part five of the areas raised by Mr Joicey.

The permission was quashed by the judge, with the council agreeing to meet Mr Joicey’s costs of over £10,700.

The Barbers’ application was subsequently redetermined by the council, and approved a second time in line with officer advice. Mr Joicey again sought a judicial review, this time citing five areas of council failings.

The council conceded it was wrong in two of those areas, meaning the permission was quashed by the high court a second time.

Again, the authority had to pick up Mr Joicey’s costs, in the region of £7,000.

The application went before the council a third time in October, with a recommendation that it be approved.

Thirty two letters of objection were lodged, while Lowick and Bowsden parish councils were also opposed, alongside 28 of support.

Yet members voted in support.

Mr Joicey has now launched a third bid for judicial review, citing six grounds of unlawfulness in planning procedure. A court hearing on July 4 gave him permission to proceed and ordered the council pay his costs for that of £9,500.

A full hearing is likely in the autumn.

He said: “I do not enjoy having to take judicial review proceedings against the council, but when so many local people, outraged by the illegality of the council’s planning procedure, quite apart from the extraordinary perverse planning decision made, approached me to do so, I felt I had no option.

“I believe the six grounds of my judicial review are all valid, and fully expect the result to be that planning permission is once again quashed, as it should be.

“I would very much hope that the council will now take the correct and cheaper option of ‘consenting to judgement’ rather than going through the court procedure and being found lacking once again.

“I expect planning committee members will be asking questions about the cost of judicial reviews to date. I know they are often warned about the costs of dealing with an appeal if they refuse an application, but they also need to be very sure that their officers have made all the various assessments properly. Otherwise they will find that they will be taken to court.”

John Barber said: “Three times we have had permission from the committee, it is clearly the will of the committee that we should be able to build this thing.

“It is really crazy, nitpicking that has landed us in this position. It makes a complete farce of the planning system.

“It goes on and on and on. It is clearly a very good site for it.

“The need society has is for green energy and let us get on with it.”