201512.22

Campaigning Resident Prevails in Wind Turbines Appeal

Planning decisions are not written in stone and, with the help of an expert legal team, they can always be challenged through the courts. In one case, a man’s hopes of blocking the erection of two wind turbines close to a national park were boosted by a Court of Appeal ruling.

The relevant local authority had, following a narrow vote, granted planning consent for the 46-metre high turbines after one of its planning officers advised that the project would have no wide-ranging impacts and that an Environmental Impact Assessment was therefore not required.

A local resident mounted a judicial review challenge to the decision, claiming that the officer’s reasoning was inadequate and that the planning consent was thus invalid. However, his case was rejected by a judge, who refused to permit public cross-examination of the officer by the man’s lawyers.

The Court noted that it is rare for witnesses to be cross-examined in judicial review proceedings. However, in the absence of oral evidence from the officer, the judge’s conclusions as to her reasoning had largely been based on inference. Cross-examination of the officer was in the circumstances necessary both for justice to be done and for it to be seen to be done. The resident’s appeal was allowed and his case was sent back to the High Court for further consideration.

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