Thursday, 19 February 2015

The Dylan Thomas wind turbine judgement


The Cardiff High Court judgement over the granting of planning permission for the 'Dylan Thomas wind turbine' was handed down today. Planning permission was quashed.

Permission for the turbine, across the estuary from the Dylan Thomas boat shed, was granted by the planning committee last year, against the recommendation of the planning officers that is should be refused.

Uproar ensued and a Judicial Review was brought by campaigners concerned that the turbine would blight the view from the boat shed.

The council have now been ordered to pay £21,275 in costs, as well as their own of course. However, they have already been granted permission to appeal.

Whatever your views on wind power, or Dylan Thomas for that matter, the judgement is an interesting one.

The judge (perhaps surprisingly) rejected the argument that Cllr Daff Davies, a (declared) friend of the applicant misled the committee by stating that the turbine would not be visible from the boat shed. Cllr Davies (Ind) is also, currently, the lamentable and laughable Chair of Carmarthenshire Council.

The judge decided that however inaccurate Cllr Davies' address to the committee was, the Members had sufficient material, in the way of photo montages, to decide for themselves.

Interestingly, the only ground accepted by the judge and which formed the basis for his decision, related to the planning officer's report, and specifically, the contents of the 'Screening Opinion'; a document which is supposed to address all the impacts including those relevant to this case, namely the cultural and historical impact.

Whilst the officer's report to the committee acknowledged the impact of the turbine on the historical and cultural sensitivities of the area, the 'Opinion', did not and neither did it recommend that an Environmental Impact Assessment was required.

So in effect, it was not the bizarre antics of the planning committee which quashed the permission, but the officer's flawed 'Screening Opinion' which formed the basis of the judge's decision.

Mr Justice Gilbart said;

"There is at best, some considerable confusion in the thinking of the Officer. It is not possible to read his words that "it will not give rise to any adverse environmental impact upon the surrounding area" in the context of his report which had taken great care to set out all of those impacts....

.......I find it striking that the Screening Opinion did not address the cultural significance of the boathouse and writing room, which I remind myself are Listed Buildings. They have a cultural importance which is not merely local, nor even regional".

Just in case the judgement is not splashed all over the front page of the council website, in the manner of Thompson v James....it can be found on the Bailii website here.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Some interesting things emerged from this case - it is notable that the original applicants didn't spend a penny in legal representation in the case. So where does the Council go from here? If they go to the Court of Appeal, there's a chance that they could win, and get back the £21K costs. Or they could rack up even more costs; bearing in mind that there's little public benefit in this proposal, and enormous opposition, is it worth the candle?

For the applicants there must now be a real danger that a second consideration of the application may result in a refusal, as the judge has clearly highlighted the cultural sensitivity of the site.

Some interesting times ahead.

Blodwen said...

This is the second time to my knowledge (there may be more examples) that a council decision has been overturned by a High Court judge.

A few years ago the idea of closing St Catherine Street in Carmarthen was abandoned after one courageous and tenacious Carmarthen ratepayer went the High Court to apply for a Judicial Review of the plan.

It seems that the Council still hasn't learned that there is a limit to how far they can go before people rebel!

Patricia Lester said...

It is absolutely astonishing that the council even went this far and resulting in more expenditure that gives absolutely nothing to the community. They have a short-fall of £8million and yet they squander vast sums of money on things like this, instead of putting it into nurses' pay, teachers, road workers etc.. Such arrogance and cronyism is draining the county of resources for services that benefit the county and not feathering the nests of a few. They need to look at the concept that there are nearly 1000 square miles of industrial roofs in the UK that could have solar panels - that is almost the size of the whole of Carmarthenshire. It is believed that they have 8 panels on the new school - 8 for hot water - the whole issue MUST be considered holistically and each and every councillor needs to read the research about wind turbines = they are outdated, inefficient and the only benefit is that they fill the coffers of the landowner and that is paid for out of OUR energy bills.