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LEGAL BID TO STALL WIND FARM POLICY FAILS

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A legal challenge that could have stalled the Welsh Assembly's ambitious wind farms policy - designed to transform ...
A legal challenge that could have stalled the Welsh Assembly's ambitious wind farms policy - designed to transform the generation of renewable energy over the next four years - ended in failure in London's High Court today.

The Assembly came under fire under alongside the Forestry Commission over its tendering process aimed at discovering the 'most economically advantageous' developers of wind farms at seven locations throughout Wales.

The plan is to lease the Assembly-owned sites for 25 years in a scheme set to yield around£50m in rent, and to generate 800 megawatts of renewable energy by 2010.

But the preliminary tendering process triggered a fierce challenge from aggrieved wind farm company, Gamesa Energy UK Ltd, which alleged fundamental 'irrationality and unfairness' in the initial selection process.

Gamesa was not even chosen to progress beyond the preliminary 'pre-qualification' stage, in which 32 bidders participated through a series of questionnaires, with just 10 companies later earmarked to take part in the full tendering process.

Gamesa's lawyers claimed the marking and composition of the questionnaire were flawed, since those behind it failed to make clear precisely what information was required, and the fact that no marks would be given for uncompleted wind farm projects.

Gamesa UK - owned by a Spanish company - mounted its legal challenge earlier this week, but Mr Justice Gibbs today rejected its case, also ordering it to bear the legal costs of the hearing.

The company's legal action was designed to restore it to the tendering process, either into the current stage of tendering, or to the 'marking' phase of the pre-qualification stage.

The first scenario could have resulted in a two-month delay in the tendering exercise, so jeopardising the 2010 'renewable energy' target deadline; the second scenario could have meant a five-month delay.

Mr Justice Gibbs said the company claimed the Assembly had failed to spell out the 'reality of the assessment', thereby unintentionally misleading Gamesa, which never fully understood the criteria in play.

But there were 32 bidders involved in the initial stage, he observed, who had all been given the same advice and information about the assessment.

Gamesa's challenge boiled down to a criticism of the 'nuts and bolts' of the assessment, he said, adding that there were no far-reaching 'public law' elements involved.

This made judicial review the wrong arena for the case, said the judge, ruling: 'I find there are no sufficient public law aspects to the challenge to make it amenable to judicial review'.

He understood that Gamesa felt genuinely 'aggrieved', since it viewed itself as the best candidate for the project, but Mr Justice Gibbs concluded that ''no sufficient public law considerations are engaged'.

STRAND NEWS SERVICE

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