Council faces court battle over wind turbine policy

An energy developer has been granted permission to bring a legal challenge against Milton Keynes Council over a new planning document on wind turbines.

Turbine: energy developer is bidding to overturn council's planning document (Picture: Centrica)
Turbine: energy developer is bidding to overturn council's planning document (Picture: Centrica)

RWE npower renewables' attempts to overturn through judicial review the council’s supplementary planning document (SPD) on the minimum distance requirements between wind turbines and homes will be given a court hearing.

The SDP says that wind turbines above 25 metres in height must be positioned at least 350 metres from residential dwellings, with the separation distance increasing to 1 kilometre for turbines higher than 100 metres.If the turbine is shorter than 25 meters, there is no minimum distance requirement, the document adds.

But RWE believe the SDP is contrary to both national guidance and the council’s own policies and has not been through the correct consultation and scrutiny processes.

In September, RWE, which has applications for two wind farms in the Milton Keynes area, threatened legal action if the council did not withdraw the SPD.

At the time, it said the coalition government had rejected the idea of a separation distance between turbines and residential dwellings for England, adding that there is no minimum separation distance in English planning law or guidance.

In a statement today, the firm said: "Following advice from senior legal counsel, we feel there is no alternative option available to us, but to seek further clarity on the planning document within the legal system.

"We are naturally disappointed and hoped that we would have been able to resolve this issue away from the courts, which is everyone's best interest."

Wayne Cranstone, RWE's onshore development and projects director, added: "If councils can introduce flawed and onerous planning policies without proper scrutiny, then this is likely to have a detrimental affect on the UK onshore wind industry as a whole, not just individual projects.

"It creates an inconsistent planning regime and uncertainty for developers.

"It is crucial we obtain clarity on this matter. It is very difficult for the industry to operate successfully when so much uncertainty prevails."

A Milton Keynes Council spokesman confirm that the judicial review hearing is listed for February 28, 2013, but did not wish to comment further.

A statement by RWE’s barristers, Thirty Nine Essex Street, said the High Court had granted RWE permission to proceed with its claim for judicial review and that Gordon Nardell QC and James Burton would be acting for RWE.

- this story was updated at 14.30 on Tuesday, December 4, to include a comment from MIlton Keynes Council confirming that permission for judicial review had been granted. Planning had contacted the council for a comment, but it was unable to respond at the time of publication.

- this story was updated at 14.30 on Monday, December 10, to amend the date for the judicial review hearing, which had been incorrectly published as February 2, 2013.

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