The High Court has overturned a “perverse” decision by Eric Pickles, the Communities and Local Government Secretary, to block plans for a solar farm at a disused airfield in Suffolk.
In October 2013, Pickles overturned planner’s recommendation for approval for the development of a 24MW solar farm by solar developer, Lark Energy. The project was on Ellough, a former WW2 airfield and next to an industrial Estate.
The Secretary of State acknowledged that the scheme would cause only limited harm to the character and appearance of the area, but concluded that this harm outweighed the benefits of the scheme in terms of renewable energy generation.
On Friday, Justice Lindblom ruled that Pickles had reached “a perverse conclusion” that showed “substantial prejudice” overturning the decision and refused the Secretary of State leave to appeal against its decision.
Mr Pickles has personally intervened in the last few months to block a number of solar and wind farms, including those that had be recommended for approval by planning officers or with significant support from local communities.
This case is a victory for SME’s engaged in the Renewable Energy sector who have not understood why parts of the Government seem to be against large-scale solar developments which have the majority of public support yet seem to be supporting the far less popular fracking and nuclear industries.
James Madigan, CEO of Livos Energy said, “This is a very big deal for Renewable Energy Development. Government appointed experts at the planning inspectorate considered the site viable and granted permission only to have their decision overturned by the Secretary of State. It is a waste of taxpayers’ money in having to bring this case to the High Court to have it approved again.”
In May, the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) confirmed that it planned to remove solar support for Renewables Obligation (RO) for developments over 5MW from April 2015.
Gaynor Hartnell who is a non-executive Director for Livos has expressed her views about the DECC Solar PV review and the implications for Solar Energy in the countdown to Contracts for Differences (CfDs) in previous blog posts.