Plans to erect thousands of wind turbines across some of Britain’s most picturesque vistas have been thrown into disarray by a landmark High Court ruling.
Cornwall County Council has been forced to accept it acted unlawfully when it gave the go-ahead for a 250ft eyesore near a beautiful stretch of coastline – throwing doubt on about 4,000 other turbines it wants to erect.
The ruling followed damning claims of a cosy relationship between a ‘green’ energy company and a planning officer who misled elected councillors about the scale of protest.
He failed to properly consult locals – at one stage using just a postcard pinned to a parish noticeboard to alert them of the planned blot on their landscape – failed to pass on objections from English Heritage and the National Trust; and relied on dubious figures about how much energy the turbine would generate.
Retired police officer Peter Waller brought the judicial review as part of his fight against a planned turbine 400 yards from his cottage near Newquay. In it, he complained of the relationship between Clean Earth Energy and planning officer Ellis Crompton-Brown, who has recommended that other of the company’s wind projects go ahead.
Campaigners claim the case demonstrates the danger of a national policy of allowing developers to pay a council to have the planning officer of their choice.
Mr Waller said: ‘If this turbine had gone ahead, life here would have been miserable. I should be happy that I have won, but I really want those responsible for this to be held to account. Mr Crompton-Brown and head of planning Phil Mason should be made to apologise for what they have done and disciplined.’
He also questioned the value of the guidance given by planning offers who he claims ‘are expected to promote such projects’ in line with the council policy.
Emails between Mr Crompton-Brown and Clean Earth showed the firm assumed it could press ahead with work even before a final planning meeting had been held.
Mr Crompton-Brown failed to include a detailed objection from English Heritage in a report to the planning committee. Key among its fears was the impact on views from Trerice, a Grade I listed Elizabethan manor house, and other beauty spots. A landscape architect with the National Trust, which owns Trerice, also wrote to Mr Crompton-Brown about his concerns, but this, too, was withheld from the committee. Meanwhile Clean Earth claimed the turbines would be 30 per cent efficient, well above the usual 23 per cent.
Following the ruling, several previous applications involving Mr Crompton-Brown and Clean Earth are to be scrutinised. Mr Waller’s lawyers say this is ‘far from an isolated case’.
Danny Mageean, of anti-turbine pressure group Cornwall Protect, said: ‘Far too much power is delegated to planning officers, who are sometimes not immune to the will of their political masters.’
He also said turbines would affect Cornwall’s vital tourist trade, saying they have replaced church towers as the dominant structures in the landscape
Planning chief Mr Mason said that, of the 9,200 planning and enforcement decisions the council makes each year, fewer than five are typically challenged by judicial review, less than half of which succeed. He added that he has ‘full confidence’ in Mr Crompton-Brown, who declined to comment.
Clean Earth Energy said it was ‘unfortunate’ that the council did not defend itself in the judicial review and added: ‘We work in a transparent manner.’
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