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High Court throws out RWE’s wind farm battle against Eric Pickles

A High Court judge has rejected RWE Innogy’s attempts to overturn a decision by Communities Secretary Eric Pickles to block a wind farm that had been given the green light by planning officials.

Earlier this year, Pickles refused planning permission for RWE’s East Heslerton wind farm in North Yorkshire. Planning officers at the local authority had backed the development and it was subsequently recommended by a planning inspector in a public inquiry, but Pickles ruled that it would be too intrusive.

RWE decided to challenge the decision in the courts, arguing that the ruling was not properly and lawfully reached.

But last Friday, the judge ruled against RWE, agreeing with the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) that the decision was fair.

Mike Parker, head of onshore wind for RWE Innogy UK, said the decision was “extremely disappointing” and would prevent up to £23m from being invested in local contracts, as well as investment of up to £2m in local community projects during the life of the wind farm.

Pickles has now rejected six of RWE Innogy’s wind farms, following a decision last week to throw out the 18MW Molesworth project wind farm in Cambridgeshire.

According to trade association RenewableUK, Pickles has intervened in a total of 52 onshore wind projects since June 2013. He has taken decisions on 26 of these so far, leaving another 26 stuck in the planning system.

Of the 26 he has decided on, 23 were rejected and just three were approved, giving him a refusal rate of 88 per cent.

“The continuing run of planning refusals for wind farms in England means that there is less and less incentive for companies such as RWE to devote their resources to bringing forward new low carbon energy generation – this is damaging investor confidence in the whole sector in the UK,” said Parker.

A spokesman for DCLG was still formulating a response to BusinessGreen’s request for comment at the time of going to press.

The news comes as a committee of MPs today criticised DCLG and Pickles for causing delays in the renewable energy planning system, which in turn could deter investment from the UK.