ONE of Britain’s leading green energy companies is taking court action over planning rules set to curtail the spread of wind farms.
RWE Npower Renewables has launched a High Court judicial review against a decision by Milton Keynes Council to create a separation zone of 2km between turbines and the nearest homes.
Other local authorities are already planning to bring in a similar policy and RWE claims it will be forced to abandon future planning applications for wind farms if its legal challenge fails.
Northumberland, Stratford-on-Avon, Cherwell in Oxfordshire, Wiltshire and Staffordshire are among councils considering creating separation zones.
It is claimed that if the moves were replicated across Britain, it would mean less than 1% of the country could be used for turbines.
Northumberland County Council is considering creating separation zones between turbines and homes as part of its new Core Strategy.
The Journal revealed last week how the vast majority of people responding to a consultation on the planning blueprint called for such guidelines.
The council said it will undertake further work on a policy which would set out separation distances which wind developers would have to abide by.
Wayne Cranstone, RWE’s onshore development and projects director, says if it loses the High Court challenge against Milton Keynes, other councils could introduce similar policies.
“We would have to withdraw many of our planning applications and rule out applications in areas with such bans. As a European utility, we would have to rethink our whole investment policy and consider putting our money elsewhere.
“It would affect the whole industry and block investment and jobs.”
Glen Sanderson, deputy leader of the Conservative group on Northumberland County Council, has been leading efforts to persuade it to take a tougher stance against the large numbers of wind turbine applications facing the county.
He called on the council to set out separation distances in a motion in September. It failed amid claims it was illegal, with members from all parties choosing not to support it.
Yesterday Coun Sanderson said: “The energy companies have a lot to gain from continuing to have fairly loose planning policies within most councils, but the vast majority of local residents feel we should have the courage to put our heads above the parapets and do things like introduce separation distances.
“I say good luck to Milton Keynes Council if they have to go to court on this and people all over the country will be watching it with interest. A lot of people are thoroughly fed up with wind farms and feel their councils should tighten up planning policies. I believe a 2km separation distance is perfectly reasonable and a good compromise.”
Cornhill farmer and anti-wind farm campaigner, Andrew Joicey, said: “I hope the county council will agree to introduce a sensible scale of separation distances, according to the height of the turbines proposed. A distance of 2km is not appropriate for very small turbines, but is reasonable when you are talking about 126 metre-high machines.
“The main reason for having them is the noise issue. We are talking about serious noise that pervades people’s lives.”
Milton Keynes council leader Andrew Geary says he discussed a 2km zone with Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles, who he said was strongly supportive.