The High Court has just handed down its decision in Hargreaves v SoS for Communities and Local Government. The Cornwall Light and Power Company first applied for permission for two wind turbines on Eagland Hill, Lancashire near the Morecambe Bay Ramsar Site of international wetland importance in April 2008.
The first application was refused so the company applied again in April 2009. The second application was also refused, in December 2009. Just within the six month time limit, the company appealed, in May 2010. The appeal was successful, the planning inspector granting permission subject to various conditions on behalf of the Secretary of State on 25 August 2010.
Mr Hargreaves, a member of the Eagland Hill Action Group and local resident, was aggrieved by the Inspector’s decisioln so he sought judicial review in the High Court. The High Court sat in Manchester on 12 and 13 July 2011, and has today (2 August 2011), handed down its decision. So three years and three months after its first application, Cornwall Light and Power Company has secured its permission – subject to any further appeals and the need to comply with a number of conditions before work can actually start.
The basis of the case was that the Inspector had failed to consider properly whether Environmental Impact Assessment was required, that he had failed to undertake an Appropriate Assessment under the Habitat Regulations, that this had resulted in unfairness to the claimant (Mr Hargreaves), and therefore for these reasons the grant of planning permission was unlawful. A detailed reading of the case report reveals that much debate centred on the exact interpretation to be accorded to the phrase, significant impact. The points of concern were the adequacy of compensation or mitigation measures for the effect on the local populaton of Pink-Feeted Geese and the visual impact of the two turbines. Various consultees had concluded that the mitigation measures for the geese, consisting of an alternative feeding area, would be adequate although various further details had to be resolved under the planning conditions imposed by the Inspector.
The claimant’s case was rejected by the judge on all counts, but at what cost to all the participants in both time and money?