Weight attached to material considerations a matter for the decision maker

The secretary of state was entitled to place greater weight than his inspector (DCS Number: 200-008-153) on material considerations in refusing an appeal involving the erection of 10 wind turbines in Yorkshire, the high court has ruled, dismissing a challenge by the developer of the scheme.

A local authority refused permission on the basis that it would have an adverse impact on the setting of the North York Moors national park and upon a grade I listed church. At the subsequent public inquiry evidence from professional witnesses agreed that there would be no significant effect on the landscape and the appointed inspector accepted that the setting of the national park would not be unduly harmed. In refusing to accept the inspector’s conclusion the secretary of state concluded that the turbines would be highly visible, undermining the intrinsic qualities of the national park and harming the setting of the church. The appellants argued that the minister had failed to have regard to an important material consideration, namely the broad consensus that the impact was minimal and inadequate reasons had been provided.

Mr Justice Dove ruled that it was a matter for the secretary of state as to the weight which should be applied to a material consideration. The decision letter addressed the landscape effects and the minister had not ignored planning policy. The secretary of state had been entitled to take into account an objection to the scheme by the national park authority and he had preferred their evidence as to the likely visual impact. The public enjoyment of the park and the need to protect its beauty and landscape had been important aspects of the decision and there had been no irrationality or failed reasoning, the judge held.

RWE Innogy Ltd v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government;

Date: 12 December 2014


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