Energy firm loses appeal over Northamptonshire wind farm

An energy company whose plans for a Northamptonshire wind farm were blocked at the High Court has failed in an appeal against the ruling after the Court of Appeal concluded that a planning inspector had given insufficient weight to the scheme's impact on nearby heritage sites.

National Trust property Lyveden New Bield
National Trust property Lyveden New Bield

Three of the country’s top judges today upheld Mrs Justice Lang’s decision to quash planning permission granted by the government in March 2012 for the Barnwell Manor wind farm proposal.
The decision of the inspector who granted permission was branded as "fatally flawed" by the court today.
Barnwell Manor Wind Energy Ltd had asked the Court of Appeal judges to overturn the High Court decision and revive its plans to build four turbines, each more than 120 metres tall, on land north of Catshead Woods, Brigstock Road, Sudborough, Northamptonshire.

East Northamptonshire Council, English Heritage and the National Trust had successfully claimed at the High Court that the wind farm would spoil the countryside and threaten a number of listed buildings of national significance in the area, including picturesque churches and country houses in surrounding villages.
They argued that harm would be caused to "heritage assets" in the area, including the Grade I listed Church of All Saints and Church of St Peter, both in Aldwincle, the Grade II listed Church of St Michael and All Angels in Wadenhoe, Wadenhoe House, Grade I listed Drayton House and the National Trust property at Lyveden New Bield.
But, last month, Gordon Nardell QC argued on behalf of the energy company that the judge's decision to quash the permission was "wrong".
Nardell argued that the government inspector who granted consent for the scheme had taken the view that its benefits outweighed that it could cause to the landscape and heritage assets.
However, today Lord Justice Sullivan, one of the country’s most senior judges dealing with planning matters, as he gave the Court of Appeal’s ruling, upheld the High Court decision.
He agreed with Mrs Justice Lang that, in drafting section 66 of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990, Parliament intended decision-makers to give "considerable importance and weight" to the desirability of preserving the setting of listed buildings when carrying out a balancing exercise in planning matters.
He continued: "I also agree with her conclusion that the inspector did not give considerable importance and weight to this factor when carrying out the balancing exercise in this decision.

"He appears to have treated the less than substantial harm to the setting of the listed buildings, including Lyveden New Bield, as a less than substantial objection to the grant of planning permission".

He said that, at no stage in the decision letter did the inspector expressly acknowledge the need to give considerable weight to the desirability of preserving the setting of listed buildings, adding: "This is a fatal flaw in the decision."

Morag Ellis QC had argued on behalf of the council and conservation bodies that no error in the judge's decision had been shown.

She claimed that the judge's analysis of the case demonstrated that the inspector failed properly to assess the effect of the turbines to the extent required by planning policy, and that clearer reasoning was needed from the inspector.

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