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Appeal over Cumbrian wind farm ruling

19 July 2010

Cumbrian farmers are to appeal against a High Court ruling in favour of a wind farm near Kendal on a ridge of hills between the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales national parks.

Rejecting all six of the campaigners’ grounds of appeal, George Bartlett QC, sitting as a deputy High Court judge, said it was “most unfortunate” that after many years of wind farm developments there were still no generic noise conditions for councils and planning inspectors to impose.

“The result is that resources have to be spent by developers, local planning authorities and objectors in agreeing, or disputing, what the noise conditions should contain; and, on appeal, inspectors have to devote time at the inquiry and afterwards in resolving the matter,” he said.

Giving judgment in Barnes and Barnes v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and others [2010] EWHC 1742 (Admin), Judge Bartlett said the development, known as Armistead wind farm, would be located near the M6.

The court heard that farmers Brian and Rebecca Barnes live in one of the two houses most affected by the proposal, Gilsmere Nook.

“The nearest turbine would be just over 600m from their house,” Judge Bartlett said. “Their land, on which they raise sheep and cattle, would at its nearest point be little over 100m from the turbine.”

The planning application was refused by South Lakeland District Council, but the decision was overturned by a planning inspector.

Judge Bartlett said there was no need for a condition limiting the size of the turbines, because it would not be open to the council to approve turbines significantly different from those featured in the planning application.

He rejected suggestions of procedural unfairness, resulting from the withholding of wind speed data and three further grounds relating to noise.

Judge Bartlett said the impact of the turbines was not considered by the planning inspector to be as important as the impact on people’s homes and he rejected a final argument based on the safety risk to people working and children playing nearby.

Judge Bartlett dismissed the application, under section 288 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, to have the planning permission quashed.

Susan Ring, partner at Richard Buxton Solicitors, acted for Brian and Rebecca Barnes. She said her clients would appeal to the Court of Appeal.

“If you put wind turbines close to people’s homes, they’re going to be noisy and people will object,” Ring said.

“You’ve got to control the noise or not put the turbines up in the first place. My clients aren’t office workers and they will be exposed to the noise all day and night.”

She added that turbine developers received “massive subsidies” from the government and farmers could earn £10,000 per annum from each turbine.

“Everyone’s a winner apart from the people living with the consequences.”

Phil Dyke, managing director of Banks Renewables, says: “We’re obviously very pleased that the High Court has chosen to back the secretary of state’s decision to grant permission for our Armistead wind farm scheme, especially given the fact that South Lakeland Council’s planning officers originally recommended it for approval when we first put it forward for planning permission as far back as early 2008.

“We consulted widely with local communities at every stage of the planning process, gaining significant amounts of local support in the process, and it is disappointing that we have had to go to such lengths to gain approval for what we have always believed was a sound and sensible proposal.”

Dyke called for changes to the planning system and appeals process so that planning approval for wind farms could be speeded up.

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