Beccles solar farm battle moves to High Court
13:14 10 April 2014
An energy company denied planning permission by the Government to build one of the country’s largest solar farms near Beccles, has today taken its fight for permission to London’s High Court.
Lark Energy Ltd is asking one of the country’s top judges, sitting in the new Planning Court, to quash Communities Secretary Eric Pickles’ decision to reject its plans for more than 90,000 solar panels on fields in Ellough.
The company is seeking an order forcing Mr Pickles to reconsider its application for 25-year planning permission for the 46 hectare site – equivalent to almost 65 football pitches - next to Ellough Airfield on Benacre Road.
It says that the Communities Secretary wrongly rejected its application despite his own planning inspector finding that the solar farm would cause only limited harm to its surroundings and would not have significant environmental effects. The inspector had recommended granting permission.
As a result, its counsel Andrew Newcombe QC argued today that Mr Pickles made an “error of law” in his failure to properly construct and apply the “planning balance”.
He argued that, in effect, he gave double weight to the limited harm that would result by taking the concerns of the local community into account as a separate material consideration to be weighed in the balance.
Lark Energy also complains that he failed to fulfil his duties under the 2004 Planning Act, failed to consider the proposal in accordance with the Government’s National Planning Policy Framework, which encourages renewable energy development, and failed to understand his duty under European Regulations on the promotion of renewable energy sources.
In addition, Mr Newcombe claimed that he failed to provide adequate or intelligible reasons to explain his conclusions.
The scheme was originally rejected by Waveney District Council, against the recommendation of its own planning officer, in February 2013. The Secretary of State rejected Lark Energy’s appeal in October 2013.
Judge Mr Justice Lindblom is to reserve his decision in the case in order to give a judgment in writing at a later date.
The hearing continues.