Turbine noise condition interpretation by experts reasonable and just

In dismissing a claim by the owners of a property in Lincolnshire that Boston Borough Council had imposed an unenforceable condition which sought to limit noise emissions from a wind turbine, the High Court also held that they no longer had any legal standing to bring the challenge.

The condition stated that noise arising from the turbine should not exceed a specified level above background noise. However, the claimant asserted that it was not enforceable because in practice it was impossible to accurately measure individual noise levels over a specified five-minute period as required by the condition. In response the council stated that by the time of the court hearing the claimant had sold their house and had no legal standing to bring the challenge.

Mr Justice Dove stated that the approach to interpreting planning conditions should be benevolent and not overly narrow and strict. The fact that the condition was technical in nature was not fatal to its interpretation and enforceability since it was common for experts in the field of noise to be involved. Although the condition did not stipulate at what height noise measurements should be taken, their absence left the matter to good sense and professional judgement. It did not mean that the condition was hopelessly vague as to be incapable of being interpreted. In any event the judge also concluded that after the sale of the house the claimant had no legal basis for pursuing the challenge because he had no vested interest in the operation of the turbine.

Greaves v Boston Borough Council;

Date: 25 November 2014; Ref: EWHC 3590 (Admin)

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