Farming couple lose wind farm court battle

Date:

12/07/2010

Source:

Court correspondent, Planning Resource

Matter:

Armistead Wind Turbines

Rebecca and Brian Barnes had asked a judge to quash a Government inspector's decision last July to grant planning permission for the erection of six wind turbines, each likely to be 100 metres tall, on a 208 hectare site to the east of Crosslands Farm, Old Hutton, Kendal.

The couple, whose Gilsmere Farm at Killington, Cumbria, is only 105 metres away at its closest boundary, had hoped the judge would order the new Government's planning supremo, communities minister Eric Pickles, to have the matter reconsidered.

However, deputy judge George Bartlett QC today ruled that the decision must stand, and left the couple with a £15,000 legal costs bill, on top of their own lawyers' bills.

He said: "The inspector's overall conclusion was that the benefits of the proposal - 'a considerable quantity of electricity from a renewable source,' as he put it - outweighed the adverse impact.

"He cannot be said to have left out of account any material consideration."

He added that conditions imposed by the inspector in order to limit adverse impacts, such as noise, were not unreasonable.

One of former communities minister John Denham's inspectors granted permission to HJ Banks & Co Ltd after South Lakeland District Council initially rejected the proposal.

The inspector ruled that the impact on the amenity of local residents from large moving structures was "close to the margin of acceptability", but concluded that the turbines were unlikely to cause unacceptable noise at nearby houses.

He granted permission for the six turbines, as well as a control room, anemometer mast and associated access tracks, subject to conditions he considered would address any concerns about noise.

Mr and Mrs Barnes had argued that, when assessing the amenity impact on their home, the inspector considered only their farmhouse, which will be 600 metres away from the nearest turbine, rather than the whole of their land, on which they work and their children play every day.

They claimed that the inspector failed adequately to take public safety into account, and such dangers as shedding blades and falling ice.

They argued that the brochure for the Vestas v90 3MW turbine warns staff not to stay within a 400 metre radius of it, and to make sure that children don't play near it.

They said they will be working and their children playing within 105 metres of a turbine, and argued that the inspector failed to take this into account.

However, the judge ruled: "The inspector clearly did have regard to the impact on those working in the fields, although he regarded this as significantly less important than the impact in and around people's homes.

"There is nothing to suggest that physical hazards to those in nearby fields was a likely significant effect."

Mr and Mrs Barnes - who are part of the Countryside Protection Consortium of South lakes (CPCSL), a collective of local community groups, parish councils and local residents - had also claimed that CPCSL were refused vital wind speed data from HJ Banks on the grounds that it was "commercially sensitive".

This data, they said, concerned the wind speeds at a height of 60 metres - the hub of the turbines - which would often be much higher than the wind speed close to the ground.

They claimed that CPCSL was denied the opportunity to test evidence on this so-called "wind shear" and the impact it would have on residents.

However, the judge ruled that the failure to disclose this data did not constitute a "procedural irregularity".

One of former Secretary of State John Denham's inspectors granted permission to HJ Banks & Co Ltd after South Lakeland District Council initially rejected the proposal.

The inspector ruled that the impact on the amenity of local residents from large moving structures was "close to the margin of acceptability", but concluded that the turbines were unlikely to cause unacceptable noise at nearby houses.

He granted permission for the six turbines, as well as a control room, anemometer mast and associated access tracks, subject to conditions he considered would address any concerns about noise.

The judge refused Mr and Mrs Barnes permission to appeal against his ruling, and ordered them to pay £12,500 towards the Government's legal costs and £2,500 towards HJ Bank's costs.