AFTER the Cotton Farm wind farm developers’ appeal was given planning approval by the Government inspector earlier this year, a judicial review was considered by the parishes and action group.
The evidence given at the appeal was put before a very experienced legal team. The group members were advised they had sufficient evidence that would stand up in court to overturn the decision.
However, they were further advised that the Huntingdonshire District Council (HDC) document called the Wind Power Special Planning Document (WP-SPD), commissioned and approved in 2006, negated every right of the local inhabitants to argue against the imposition of wind turbines of any size virtually anywhere in the district.
This is being proved to be true again and again with wind farm developments already built, approved or proposed at Warboys, Graveley, Stow Longa, Woolley Hill, Molesworth and other proposed sites in the area. Graveley village, the most effected village at the Cotton Farm development, is not even in the HDC area.
It seems obvious to outsiders that the planning department at HDC has a problems. The planners are now very expensively, and extensively, embroiled in constant wind farm activities to the detriment of other important planning issues.
The department, I suspect, in an effort to avoid yet another time-consuming and costly developer appeal, recommended approval of the Woolley Hill wind farm against local opinion. This, quite rightly, was turned down by the planning committee and yet again another developer appeal is on its way.
The inspector at the Cotton Farm appeal last year could not make decisions on many elements in the parishes and action group arguments against the development, especially on noise.
In essence, the inspector is seen to have ducked the issues by implying there was no point in making a decision on these arguments because the HDC WP-SPD stated a wind farm could be erected on the site anyway.
The inspector, in his report, also acknowledged there were many defects in the developers' planning submission and stated any breach of the planning conditions, especially on noise, can be pursued under nuisance law.
The Cotton Farm Action Group and the parishes around the Cotton Farm area, being very aware of these conditions and the imposition of similar conditions on wind farm development elsewhere in the country, are actively exploring means of ensuring the developer and landowner do not break their contracts and the law.
A landmark case, currently before the High Court, is an example of where a district council let down local people, and local people had to fight on their own.
It is also a fact that, if this case is successful, a very large number of similar cases will be brought before the courts, incurring claims against developers, wind farm operators and land owners. This list could include councils, incurring even more legal costs.
The fight at Cotton Farm has not gone away and HDC should consider protecting itself and the local residents by repealing the WP-SPD and introducing a minimum distance of two kilometres between turbine and dwelling, as has been done elsewhere in the country.
Also the planners, in all discussions with the developers of wind farms, should include all the affected parish councils and action groups. This involvement should also include Graveley PC and SCDC in all aspects of planning negotiations and discussions with the Cotton Farm developer and landowners.