News of the outcome of the Judicial Review of Cornwall Council’s decision to grant planning permission for a 77m Turbine at Tredinnick Farm, near Newquay, close to the National Trust property Trerice, has been widely reported in the local and national media. Cornwall Council did not contest the application for Judicial Review by local resident Peter Waller and in doing so they conceded they had acted unlawfully in granting the permission. The main issues were that the Planning Application was invalid because Cornwall Council failed to include details of the pre-application consultation, Cornwall Council made unlawful errors of fact regarding the amount of electricity produced by the development per annum, and the Planning Officer’s Report was inaccurate in that it failed to report to the Planning Committee the objections of English Heritage and the National Trust. A fuller account of the issues is provided in the Press Release from Peter and the Turbine Action Group.
This sorry saga replicates the concerns of many other individuals and communities across Cornwall living with turbines and fields of solar panels who know Cornwall Council has been too ready to accept and support the information and assessments provided by Wind Turbine Developers at face value, and have been selective in the information they present to Cornwall Councillors. It is evident many Planning Applications fail the requirements of pre-application consultation and should not be accepted, but Cornwall Council choose not to act in the interests of local communities and they validate the applications. Planning Officers seem to have become experts in all fields and regularly place their own opinions before that of statutory consultees such as English Heritage, and Cornwall Council experts, such as their own Landscape Architect, who has been warning for some time that Cornwall Council is creating a “Wind Farm Landscape” across the peninsula, producing a landscape defined by turbines. Whether the performance of Planning Officers is guided by the Cornwall Green Agenda, driven by a section of Cornwall Councillors, is difficult to say, but there is a stark contrast between Cornwall with its very obvious proliferation of turbines and solar panels and other South West local authorities. Do they all follow the same Planning Guidance? Obviously not. Cornwall Council have encouraged renewable energy developments, showing developers an open door. Cornwall Protects main argument has always been that proper assessments of adverse environmental impact have not been carried out or required by our Council, decisions are based on incomplete information and the landscape and residents are paying the price. Planning Officers have been allowed to express their opinion about applications but have never been required to justify their conclusions.
What is Cornwall Council’s response to this Judicial Review. Apparently the Head of Planning has full confidence in Ellis Compton Brown, the officer responsible for the Tredinnick Farm report, a confidence which emphasises the remoteness and distance of local government officials who don’t seem to consider themselves accountable to the people they supposedly serve. Mr Mason also states the limited number of Judicial Review decisions against the Council prove they are getting it right. The truth is there is no right of appeal for the public against planning decisions. It is only the developers who can appeal to the Planning Inspectorate, a body funded through our taxes. The public have to apply for Judicial Review and face possible costs of £20,000 – £30,000. So not very surprisingly very few people do.
Cornwall Protect have been trying to get Cornwall Council to recognise the seriousness of the Tredinnick Farm case but all we get are platitudes and weasel words. The truth is the comments from English Heritage were edited to the extent that Cornwall Councillors did not know English Heritage were objecting. To add insult to injury following the Judicial Review Cornwall Council has tried to say the comments from English Heritage were submitted after the decision was made, when those comments were emailed on the 25th June 2014 and the decision was made on the 30th September.
To misquote the Bard, “something is rotten in the state of Cornwall” and we have only glimpsed the tip.