A wind turbine taller than the Wheel of Nottingham could finally be allowed to stay – after a legal battle that has cost hundreds of thousands of pounds and lasted more than four years.
But campaigners against the 66.5-metre turbine say that if it is granted planning permission for the second time, they will again take their fight to the High Court – saying it’s “just history repeating itself”.
The structure, with a blade diameter of 33 metres, was erected by John Charles-Jones at Woodborough Park Farm in December 2013 and has been producing power for local homes and the National Grid since March 2014.
It was originally granted planning permission in November 2011 – despite more than 1,100 objections – but campaigners appealed against the decision at the High Court and then the Court of Appeal.
Judges eventually quashed the planning permission – but not before Gedling Borough Council had forked out £126,000 in judicial review costs. The farmer said his bill ran into “six figures” and campaigners have spent more than £14,000 so far.
Now, the farmer has been given one last chance to put in a revised planning application to keep his turbine, which is on green belt land, but has called the process “the most illogical thing” he has ever been through.
Mr Charles-Jones told the Post: “I feel that the only reason [it was quashed] was a legal technicality. Nothing has actually changed. I’m hoping the planning committee will vote it through, just as they did before.
“It already generates power for 200 local homes and we sell the rest of the green energy to the national grid. It has been the most illogical thing we have ever been through.”
Gedling Borough Council officers have recommended that councillors again grant planning permission at a meeting next Wednesday. 13
But local people, who formed campaign group Woodborough and Calverton Against Turbines, have vowed to fight until the turbine is taken down and to take the decision back to judicial review if necessary.
Former criminal lawyer Julia Holder, from the group, said: “We fought the battle, and won the battle, but here we go again.
“It’s just history repeating itself.
“If there are grounds, we will have no hesitation going through the judicial review process again.”
A spokesman for the borough council, the planning authority, said: “The previous approval was quashed and so the application was remitted back to Gedling for de-determination, so it’s a refreshed application.
“The Court of Appeal decision was very clear that no further action should be taken until the refreshed application had been re-determined.”
Whatever your stance on wind turbines, the legal battle surrounding Woodborough Park Farm has dragged on for too long.
That is the view of local MP Mark Spencer, who distanced himself from backing or criticising the 66-metre-high structure in the green belt.
Anti-turbine campaigners say it is a blot on the landscape and makes too much noise.
But the farmer behind the project says he is being victimised despite following planning rules.
Mr Spencer, Conservative MP for Sherwood, said: “I don’t find wind turbines offensive.
“It’s been a very long-running saga and, although I’m sure it will carry on whichever way it goes, this is at least another step.
“Ultimately, it’s a decision for the planning authority (Gedling Borough Council). It’s frustrating it’s come to this.”
The Court of Appeal quashed planning permission in 2014 after a lengthy legal battle, but plans have been re-submitted to the council.
On its website, campaign group Woodborough and Calverton Against Turbines compares the turbine to the 72-metre Victoria Centre, the tallest building in Nottingham. It has also published its spending, with a figure of £13,598.
Spokesman Julia Holder said: “It will be significantly more now. Then there is the countless hours we’ve spent battling it. The impact it’s had on my family and other local residents is immense.
“We have no issue with his solar panels, for example, so it’s not as if we’re against his business interests – it’s simply too big.
“There’s a couple in George’s Lane who have a big window and it’s as if they’ve put the turbine right in the middle, framing it.”
Gedling Borough Council received 1,125 letters of objection to the first application and 100 letters in support. About 70 people packed the council chamber to hear permission granted in 2011. An additional 67 objection letters, a petition of 160 signatures and 176 supporting letters were received after the re-submission.
Farmer John Charles-Jones, who built the structure, said: “We’ve invested a lot of time and energy in the project and it’s frustrating because we’ve done everything required of us.”
He would not reveal the cost of the turbine but indicated that it was in the hundreds of thousands of pounds and suggested he also had to pay a six-figure sum in legal costs. He said: “We don’t want anyone to think we feel sorry for ourselves but it already generates power for 200 local homes and we sell the rest of the green energy to the national grid.”
The Court of Appeal overturned a decision by the High Court to back Gedling Borough Council’s approval of plans for the wind turbine at Woodborough Park Farm – quashing the approval.
Despite hearing how pulling down the turbine could put financial strain on the farmers, Mr Justice Kenneth Parker found the granting of permission “legally flawed”.
He also said a council planning officer was wrong in suggesting that giving the wind turbine permission would not set a precedent for future applications in the area and that another plan for two smaller turbines was not considered enough.
Mr Justice Kenneth Parker said in his judgement: “Whilst I accept that the consequences of quashing the permission would be detrimental and damaging to Mr and Mrs Charles-Jones, they chose to and must be assumed to have appreciated the risks.
“Planning permission is not simply a private matter.”
If the new application is unsuccessful, Mr Charles-Jones could face enforcement action for breach of planning control.
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