Judge dismisses legal challenge against secretary of state power line approval

A High Court judge has rejected an attempt to overturn a secretary of state decision to approve an electricity line that would connect two wind farms to the national grid, dismissing arguments that the minister had failed to properly assess heritage impacts.

London's Royal Courts of Justice
London's Royal Courts of Justice

The case was heard in Cardiff, but the judgment was handed down in London yesterday, where Mr Justice Lewis dismissed the case put forward by John Mars Jones, owner of Berain Farm, and a member of campaign group Pylon the Pressure formed by locals to oppose the proposed overhead electricity line.

Mars Jones had attacked the secretary of state for business, energy and industrial strategy’s decision to make the North Wales Wind Farms Connection Order 2016, which granted consent for the electricity line to run 17.4km across up to 225 wooded pole supports, which would pass about 125 metres to the West of Berain Farm.

The farm includes Berain Hall, a rare and important Tudor gentry house that was once the home of Katherine Tudor, a descendant of Henry VII.

It also has a rare example of an Elizabethan barn. Both are Grade II* listed buildings.

Mars Jones claimed that the electricity line would harm the settings of those buildings of architectural and historical interest and interfere with certain rights he has over the land on which it is to be constructed.

Claiming the order was "unlawful", he said that the secretary of state failed to weigh the benefits of the proposed development against the harm caused to Berain Farm, and failed to properly assess the alternative option of running the line underground to prevent impact on the landscape.

He also argued that the secretary of state failed to give adequate reasons to explain the decision.

However, rejecting all his grounds of challenge, the judge said that the secretary of state had correctly applied the relevant policies, adding: "He did assess the significance of the impact of the proposed development on the setting of Berain and did weigh the impact against the public benefits of the proposed development."

He added that the secretary of state had also considered alternatives, including running all or part of the line underground, and gave "adequate and intelligible reasons for his conclusions".

The line will enable electricity distribution network operator SP Manweb plc to connect two North Wales wind farm developments to the electricity grid network.

R on the Application of Mars Jones v Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. Case Number: CO/4571/2016

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