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RAF BASE OPERATIONS STALL WIND FARM PLANS

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London's high court refused to order the secretary of state for trade and industry to reconsider his decision to re...
London's high court refused to order the secretary of state for trade and industry to reconsider his decision to reject plans for a 107-turbine wind farm on Humble Hill, Kielder, Northumberland without holding a public inquiry.

Mr justice Sullivan said that the wind farm had been refused because the ministry of defence had raised a 'substantial objection' that the wind farm, involving 240-feet high turbines, would pose a safety risk to a nearby RAF base, which it described as a 'unique facility in Europe' training pilots in low-flying simulated combat at heights of only 100 feet above ground.

The MoD claimed that the wind farm might also affect radar operations on its electronic warfare tactics range at Spadeadam.

Planning applicant EcoGen Developments Ltd challenged the March 2001 decision of the secretary of state for trade and industry to refuse planning permission without holding a public inquiry.

EcoGen's counsel, Robert McCracken argued last Thursday that it had been denied an opportunity to make representations on the need for a public inquiry to be held, which it said would enable cross examination of the MoD's evidence, with the aid of the expert evidence of a NATO trained pilot, and give it an opportunity to put its own oral submissions.

However, Mr justice Sullivan refused to quash the decision not to hold a public inquiry, finding that EcoGen had failed to respond to three invitations from the secretary of state to provide representations on why such an inquiry should be held that had been issued since it had won permission for the court challenge.

He said that its refusal to provide representations in response to

invitations on 2 January, 25 February and 8 March had been 'thoroughly unreasonable', and that it had chosen to reply only with 'legalistic bickering'.

He said: 'Whatever the merits of the original decision, there can be no question of the court quashing the decision of 29 March 2001 on the sole basis that EcoGen should have been given an opportunity to explain why there should have been a public inquiry.

'EcoGen has been given ample opportunity to explain. Having been asked three times to provide an explanation, it is far too late to seek to provide an explanation to this court.'

STRAND NEWS SERVICE

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