£30m wind farm plan ditched because judge doesn’t believe developer’s promise to reduce energy bills
Controversial plans for a wind farm near a picturesque north Cornish village have been scotched by a High Court judge.
Good Energy Generation Limited said its offer to cut local residents’ electricity bills by at least 20% had been wrongly ignored by planners.
The company wanted to erect 11 giant turbines on land at Credacott Farm near Week St Mary and had also offered to put cash into a community investment scheme.
Cornwall Council had refused planning permission for the £30 million project . The company appealed against that decision but the rejection was upheld by the Government’s Planning Inspectorate.
And in July 2017 Sajid Javid, then communities secretary, also decided to refuse planning permission. His decision has now been upheld in the High Court.
Mrs Justice Lang said the developer had made “no firm commitment” that electricity bill cuts would in fact materialise from the project.
The company’s offer “could be withdrawn at any stage” and it had not been specified exactly which members of the local community would qualify.
Good Energy pointed to government policies in favour of community-led initiatives and community involvement in renewable energy projects.
But the judge said the prospect of reduced bills was “essentially an inducement to make the proposal more attractive to local residents and to the local planning authority”.
The community investment scheme would also “not be available from the outset” but would only kick in six months after the first power was generated.
There was “a lack of any specific details” about when the scheme would commence or its long-term future, she added.
Mr Javid, she ruled, was “entitled to conclude that no weight could be attached” to either of the company’s offers when considering the planning merits of the scheme.
The court heard the project was “of major significance for the delivery of the government’s climate change programme and energy policies”.
The wind farm would produce almost 90,000 MWh of energy per year and it was planned to operate free from subsidy.
The scheme “had the potential to act as a model for other energy projects” and would generate jobs and other advantages to local farmers.
A government inspector recognised after a public inquiry last year that the public benefits of the scheme would be “extensive and very weighty”.
But he ruled that the advantages were outweighed the “serious” harm that would be caused to the setting of listed buildings and designated heritage assets.
The wind turbines would be “an incongruous presence” less than 4km from the Cornwall Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Heritage Coast.
The Week St Mary Area of Great Landscape Value was only about 730 metres away, he added, recommending that planning permission be refused.
Mr Javid agreed and Mrs Justice Lang on Friday (May 25) rejected all Good Energy’s grounds of challenge to his decision.
North Cornwall MP Scott Mann said: “I’m delighted that the High Court has dismissed this appeal by Good Energy and that the will of local people has prevailed.
“The proposed wind farm was heavily scrutinised by local planners and the Planning Inspectorate, and I was astounded that even after a drawn out inquiry which ended with the Secretary of State rejecting the proposals, Good Energy decided to appeal it in the courts.
“I know this decision will be a huge sigh of relief for the people of Week St Mary and all those in North Cornwall who care about protecting our countryside and beautiful landscape.”
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