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Bid to block 125 metre wind turbine rejected by High Court

PUBLISHED: 15:37 11 December 2018 | UPDATED: 15:37 11 December 2018

Benji Howell (pictured left) with protestors against the Barsham turbine at the public enquiry earlier this year.

Benji Howell (pictured left) with protestors against the Barsham turbine at the public enquiry earlier this year.

(C) Archant Norfolk 2013

After years of struggle, objectors have finally failed in a High Court bid to block erection of a 125-metre wind turbine on a site near Beccles.

Leading the fight against the turbine was local landowner, Benjamin Howell, of Crake Hall, and the owners of a local flying club.

Objections ranged from concerns over aviation safety to the potential impact on archaeological remains.

But judge Sir Ross Cranston has now given the green light to Stamford Renewable Power Ltd to erect the turbine at Shipmeadow.

The court in London heard the turbine was opposed by the Broads Authority, 10 town and parish councils and many local residents.

Planning permission was refused by the local authority in 2012, but that decision was later reversed by a central government planning inspector.

The inspector ruled in April 2014 that the renewable energy benefits of the turbine meant the planning balance came down in favour of the development.

The planning permission was, however, subject to a wide range of conditions, Sir Ross told the court.

Amongst other things, the development had to be started within three years - later extended to four.

And no work on the site was permitted until three months after Stamford Renewable confirmed in writing that the conditions had been met.

Amongst other things, the conditions addressed aviation safety concerns raised by a flying club that operates at nearby Church Farm Airstrip.

Stamford Renewable also had to confirm the exact location and height of the turbine and put in place a programme of archaeological works.

The three-year time limit expired on April 2 this year, but the company only applied to Waveney District Council to discharge 16 of the conditions on January 26.

But, after being reassured that the Ministry of Defence had been been consulted about aviation safety issues and that archaeological invesigations had been arranged, the council lifted the conditions on March 21.

At the High Court, Mr Howell’s lawyers argued that the council was wrong to take that step and that the 2014 planning permission had expired.

By the time Stamford Renewable applied to lift the conditions, it was already too late, the three-month time limit having passed.

Ruling on the dispute, Sir Ross acknowledged that the company was “late” in applying to lift the aviation conditions.

However, the requirement that conditions had to be met three months before work started “did not go to the heart of the planning permission,” he said.

The same applied to the archaeological conditions and the company’s late application did not make the entire planning permission unlawful.

Objectors also claimed that the council had failed in its duty to publicise the application, and to consult the public, before reaching its decision.

But the judge said the turbine had “attracted determined opposition” for years, with objectors fully engaged in the planning process throughout.

Any lack of publicity or consultation was in any event “highly unlikely” to have affected the outcome, he ruled.

Mr Howell’s challenge was dismissed and the council’s decision, and the validity of the planning permission, were confirmed.

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