A NORTH council could be forced to review the way it handles controversial wind turbine applications after losing a battle with an anti-wind farm campaigner.
Northumberland County Council has conceded defeat in its fight with landowner Andrew Joicey over its handling of three approved applications for single turbines in the Berwick area.
The applicants behind the schemes have had now their planning permissions revoked and their bids will have to be redetermined.
The council is having to pay Cornhill farmer Mr Joicey’s costs of more than £10,000.
Mr Joicey, who was part of the Save our Unspoilt Landscape group which previously unsuccessfully fought plans for turbines at Barmoor, last night said the outcome would mean the council would have to handle future applications differently on matters like noise and cumulative impact.
One of the three applicants said the issues Mr Joicey had challenged the council over had not affected the authority’s decision and said he expected to be given approval a second time.
But he criticised the council for failing to stand its ground and said the outcome would mean a delay in his project proceeding which would cause him to miss out on higher payouts.
The applications for single turbines were for Wark Common, Brackenside and New Haggerston, all of which had attracted a series of objections. They were granted approval by the council’s North area planning committee at its meeting in February, in line with officer recommendations.
Mr Joicey sought a judicial review of the decisions, listing eight specific areas of criticism.
Now it has emerged that the council has accepted either fully or in part five of the areas raised by Mr Joicey, on noise, cumulative noise impact and cumulative visual impact.
The other points related to environmental impact assessments and consultation.
The council’s acceptance meant a court hearing was not needed, while the authority agreed to pay Mr Joicey’s legal costs of £10,745.76.
Mr Joicey last night said he hoped the outcome would mean the council “will have to be more rigorous” in handling applications.
He added: “I take no real pleasure in having to challenge the county council over their procedure in regard to wind farm planning matters. However, I have been concerned for a long time about the adequacy of the council’s consideration of turbine schemes.
“It has been abundantly clear for some time that there have been systemic errors in their handling of wind turbine applications, both for large-scale wind farms and for individual so-called ‘farm-scale’ turbines.
“Unfortunately this has led to several permissions being granted which will, I believe, result in an undesirable impact on rural landscapes and communities.
“I hope that this case has helped to show that the officers of the council are not always as correct or ‘professional’ or ‘expert’ as they are often made out to be, and I hope that members will realise that, sometimes, objectors are prepared to stick their neck out and apply to the court where errors of procedure have been made.”
John Barber, the applicant in the Brackenside scheme, claimed the areas Mr Joicey had challenged on “were not going to affect the decision at the end of the day.”
He argued the council should have “defended their position” and “stick up for what they had done”.
Mr Barber said the outcome would cause a “massive delay” for his project and mean he is not able to benefit from the higher rate of feed in tariffs, which end on October 1.
A council spokesperson said: “Northumberland County Council has agreed to consent to an application for judicial review, brought by the opponent to three wind turbines within North Northumberland.
“The judicial review was heard at the Administrative Court in London on June 6 where the judge confirmed that there had been some procedural errors in the way that the council had processed the applications for the wind turbines and accordingly the respective planning permissions should be quashed.
“The effect of the quashing of the planning permission is that the applications will be dealt with afresh and determined by the county council in accordance with statutory procedures, including consultation, and timescales.”