A High Court judge has overturned the Forest of Dean District Council (FDDC) planning approval of a single wind turbine at Severndale Farm, Tidenham.
Campaigners, led by Tidenham resident Peter Wright, had raised £15,000 to cover the cost of the judicial review against a proposed 87 metre-high wind turbine. The proposal, put forward by Lydney-based renewable energy company the Resilience Centre, was originally approved by the FDDC planning committee on 11th August 2015.
The point of contention was a community fund of £500,000 which was to be generated by the turbine, and which was a key part of the original planning approval. Mr Justice Dove overturned the granted planning proposal after ruling that financial benefits for a local community by a developer are irrelevant to issues relating to land use.
The judge ruled that the potential community donations served no planning purpose and were irrelevant to the development itself, and highlighted the importance that planning permissions are never for sale.
Unless permission is given to appeal and the decision is subsequently overturned, the project cannot now proceed.
Peter Wright said: “We’re absolutely delighted. I was fairly confident, and our barristers said it was fifty-fifty on the day. But I thought our arguments were much more focused.
“We’re waiting on the 52 page full report to come through, but when I asked my lawyers they said the decision was black and white and very clear.
“The fact our community came together and took this to the highest courts show how the local community doesn’t want this thing. We’re now in a much better position.
“Overall we’re chuffed to bits. It’s up to the FODDC and Resilience to decide what to do next as the ball is now well and truly batted back into their court.”
“If they do resubmit we shall be far better prepared to continue the fight and of course better funded having been awarded costs by the judge as a result of our victory in the Judicial review.
“If they reapply, we look forward to the challenge.”
Sue Clarke, the Director of the Resilience Centre said: “This ruling, which quashes the planning permission for Severndale, is disappointing on many levels and is yet another blow for the UK community energy sector.
“The fact that this is a community led project, which would be community owned and operated with the primary purpose of benefitting the community in which it is based, did not result in the project being distinguished from commercial projects by the judge.
“The decision may be celebrated by the small minority who opposed the approved project but in reality we consider this to be a massive loss for the community as a whole and clearly undermines local democracy.
“The fact that the planning approval decision had already survived scrutiny by the Secretary of State (prompted by the same small group) makes the current judgement even more difficult to understand.
“We’re looking at all the options available to us. It’s not the end of the road yet.”
Janine Michael from Dean Community Energy Group, a group from across the Forest of Dean who are concerned about climate change, said: “The ruling by the High Court last week to quash planning permission for the Severndale Community Wind Turbine marks a sad day for renewable energy and local resilience in the Forest of Dean. The case brought by a small minority of objectors, used a technicality in planning law to argue our council should not have been able to recognise the local benefits of the scheme.
“This decision not only impacts us in the Forest of Dean but has far-reaching implications for community energy projects and community enterprise schemes across the country.
“On behalf of supporters of the project, and community enterprise more generally, I hope our councillors will be resolute in standing by their original, well-balanced, democratic decision and appeal this ruling.”
A spokesperson for the FDDC said: “The council is disappoint with the judgement and will now take time to consider its position.”
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