Tidenham campaigners are taking the Forest of Dean District Council (FDDC) to the High Courts on 21st April 2016 over a proposed 87 metre-high wind turbine.
Campaigners lead by Tidenham resident Peter Wright, have sought a judicial review of the FDDC’s decision to approve planning proposals for the turbine at Severndale Farm off the A48. The point of contention is whether the plans constitute a community benefit, and the case looks to set a precedent for further development of wind turbines in the Severn Estuary area and beyond.
The proposals were originally approved by the FDDC Planning Committee on 11th August 2015, amidst concerns from residents. It was granted contrary to the advice of the Planning Officer, whose recommendation was for a refusal on landscape and heritage grounds, as ‘the negative impacts were not outweighed by the benefits.’
Since then, campaigners have raised more than £15,000 to cover the costs of the judicial review, which was granted on 7th January 2016.
Campaigners had previously tried to appeal the decision by asking the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Mr Greg Clark, to “call in” the application and make a decision himself in mid-August. But on 29th September 2015 the Secretary of State decided not to call in the application for his own determination and the application was formally granted planning commission by the council on 30th September.
A spokesperson for Peter Wright, who brought the case forward, said: “Mr Wright is one of about 100 local residents who are totally opposed to the siting of yet another wind turbine in the Forest of Dean, following the erection of one at St Briavels in 2013 and a second one at Alvington/ Aylburton late last year. Both were put forward under the auspices of the same developer the Resilience Centre, who have plans for at least three more along the Severn Estuary including the Severndale proposal, the subject of the Judicial Review.
In Mr Wright’s view this is creating a “wind farm by stealth” along the Forest of Dean side of the Severn Estuary and the majority of local residents are firmly opposed to this, as well as environmental bodies, such as the RSPB. The Tidenham Parish Council also opposed the scheme.
The Judicial Review is being brought relating to the alleged unlawful decision of the FODDC in taking into account so called “community benefits in the grant of planning permission, directly contrary to UK Government Guidelines”.
But The Resilience Centre Ltd, the Lydney-based renewable resource company who submitted the planning application, maintains that there is a high level of public support for the project. The company argues that the turbine will bring positive social and economic benefits for the community, citing the project’s public ownership model, and the generation of a community fund.
A spokesperson for The Resilience Centre said: “The application was decided by the Forest of Dean District council by a democratically elected (cross party represented) full planning committee who voted overwhelmingly in favour by 10:3 votes with one abstention. During the consultation process there were more than two times more local people in support of the project than against.
“The basis of the High Court Challenge is seen as key to the continued success of our Community Energy project and others like it in the UK as the High Court action by Mr Peter Wright is being brought on solely on two technicalities, representing the fundamental principles of Community owned Energy in the UK.
“The case will decide on namely whether projects with overriding positive benefit to the community can be given positive weight in the planning process, and whether a Community Benefit Society (Cooperative) is an appropriate legal entity under which to bring forward such projects.
“It would appear a case could not be made on any other issues associated with the project by Mr Wright or his legal team.”
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