A protester who has persistently challenged plans for a wind turbine at a farm near Lowick has once again succeeded in having the proposal blocked by the High Court.
Andrew Joicey of New Etal, Cornhill, has for the third time won a ruling quashing Northumberland County Council’s decision to grant planning permission to John Barber for the wind turbine at Brackenside Farm.
He says it would be a noise nuisance for his family and his tenants.
One of the country’s leading judges, Mr Justice Cranston, expressed sympathy for Mr Barber, whose efforts to erect a wind turbine and cut his fuel bills had been thwarted “through no fault of his own”, but ruled that the council had failed in its duty to the public in the way it took its latest decision.
The council will now have to consider the proposal for a fourth time, after two earlier planning permissions were quashed by the court in proceedings brought by Mr Joicey. That first permission was granted in February 2012, but in the face of a judicial review claim by Mr Joicey, the council conceded that it should not stand.
When it decided the matter again in November 2012, the council again granted planning consent.
That decision too was quashed by the court in March 2013, in the wake of Mr Joicey’s claim that a noise condition was defective, and that English Heritage should have been consulted due to the impact on nearby listed buildings.
Then, in November last year, the council’s county-wide planning and environment and rights of way committee voted 10-3 to approve the turbine. But Mr Joicey claimed that, in doing so, the council made the process unfair on him and other objectors by not publishing a key noise assessment on the issue well in advance of the committee hearing.
The judge said that this 74-page document was only published on the council’s website 36 hours ahead of the committee meeting, which fell short of its duty to give a “reasonable time” for interested parties to consider the material. He said that such “right to know” documents required “timely publication”, adding: “Information must be published by the public authority in good time for members of the public to be able to digest it and make intelligent representations. The very purpose of a legal obligation conferring a right to know is to put members of the public in a position where they can make sensible contributions to democratic decision-making.”
He went on: “In my view publication was not effected in a timely manner in this case.”
Richard Harwood QC, who represented Mr Joicey, had argued that his client was only able to “scratch the surface” of the errors in the report in the time provided.
In addition, the judge found that the council wrongly treated all seven properties at Brackenside Farm as having a “financial interest” in the turbine, which meant that a higher tolerable noise limit was applied for those properties in the decision-making process. The council took that view because all seven are owned by Mr Barber’s company, R&J Barber Farms, but the judge said that while Mr Barber and his wife live in one, and their son and his wife live in another, three more cottages are rented out, another property is occupied by a retired farm worker and the seventh is let out as holiday accommodation.
Finding that the council had made a wrong assumption, the judge said: “The applicant’s tenants do not have a financial involvement by virtue of the applicant’s own financial involvement.”
Whilst the difference in noise limits between properties with a financial involvement and those without – 45 and 43 decibels respectively – may appear minor, he said: “The decibel scale is logarithmic and these differences are not necessarily small.”
The judge said that Mr Barber had explained that he and his family wanted the turbine to help modernise their farm and reduce its dependence on fossil fuels, that he had relied on a trusted noise specialist and that he believed there was “sufficient headroom” for the proposed turbine not to be a noise nuisance. “Mr Barber’s frustration is understandable,” the judge said. “However I quash the planning permission.”
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding