Judge refuses plans for 11 wind turbines in Cornwall

Plans for 11 wind turbines near a Cornish village have been blocked by a High Court judge after she agreed that 'no weight' could be attached to the developer's claim that the scheme would cut local electricity bills.

Wind power: Cornish scheme refused
Wind power: Cornish scheme refused

Applicant Good Energy Generation said its offer to cut local residents' electricity bills by at least 20 per cent had been wrongly ignored by planners.

The company wanted to erect the turbines on land at Credacott Farm, near Week St Mary in North Cornwall, and had also offered to put cash into a community investment scheme.

But former communities secretary Sajid Javid's July 2017 decision to refuse planning permission, in line with the recommendations of an inquiry inspector, was upheld by the court.

Mrs Justice Lang said the developer had made "no firm commitment" that electricity bill cuts would in fact materialise from the project. The company's offer "could be withdrawn at any stage" and it had not been specified exactly which members of the local community would qualify, the judge remarked.

Good Energy pointed to government policies in favour of community-led initiatives and community involvement in renewable energy projects. But the judge said the prospect of reduced bills was "essentially an inducement to make the proposal more attractive to local residents and to the local planning authority."

She noted that the community investment scheme would "not be available from the outset", but would only kick in six months after the first power was generated. She found "a lack of any specific details" about when the scheme would commence or its long-term future.

Javid, she ruled, was "entitled to conclude that no weight could be attached" to either of the company's offers when considering the planning merits of the scheme.

The court heard that the project was "of major significance for the delivery of the government's climate change programme and energy policies".

The wind farm had been planned to produce almost 90,000 megawatt-hours of energy per year and to operate free from subsidy. The scheme "had the potential to act as a model for other energy projects" and would generate jobs and other advantages to local farmers, its promoters claimed.

After a planning inquiry last year, the inspector recognised that the scheme's public benefits would be "extensive and very weighty". But he ruled that the advantages were outweighed by the "serious" harm that would be caused to the setting of listed buildings and designated heritage assets.

In his view, the turbines would be "an incongruous presence" less than four kilometres from the Cornwall Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Heritage Coast. He also noted that the appeal site lay only 730 metres outside an area of great landscape value. 

Folliowing last week's court hearing, Mrs Justice Lang last week rejected all Good Energy's grounds of challenge to his decision.

Good Energy Generation Limited v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government & Anr. Case Number: CO/4097/2017

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