A judge in the English High Court has slammed the ‘perverse decision’ of the UK government’s secretary of state for communities and local government to block planning consent for a 24 MW solar farm on a former airfield in Suffolk.
Overturning the decision by secretary of state Eric Pickles to block the planning application and subsequently refusing any leave for the government to appeal Justice Keith Lindblom said Pickles’ decision the scheme was in conflict with the local authority’s development plan "does not show that he performed his duty under section 38(6) [of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004."
The decision by Pickles, in October, to overrule a planning inspector’s approval of the scheme following a public inquiry and relating to a planning application initially rejected by the Waveney District Council local authority despite having received only three letters of objection was overturned in the High Court in London, allowing East Midlands-based developer Lark Energy to continue with the project.
Welcoming the High Court’s decision, Jo Wall, Lark Energy’s development director, said: "We were always concerned about the legality of the secretary of state’s decision as it appeared to have been made without due regard to the local plan.
"It was clear to anyone that read the secretary of state’s decision notice that this project was a victim of political expediency rather than rigorous application of planning policy."
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Lark Energy, which announced the decision in a press release this afternoon, contrasted the public support and political opposition experienced by the Ellough project in Suffolk, with efforts to smooth planning consents for natural gas fracking and nuclear schemes.
Lark Energy MD Jonathan Selwyn, said: "It would seem some elements of the government wish to prevent large scale solar developments even where the majority of the public supports them.
"This is in stark contrast to the treatment afforded the far less popular fracking and nuclear industries and is difficult for the many SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprizes) engaged in the solar sector to understand."
The Ellough scheme is on low grade agricultural land on a former World War II airfield, is next to what Lark Energy describes as ‘a substantial industrial area’ and wraps around a large turkey factory.
Pickles’ opposition to the scheme had been hailed in right wing newspaper The Daily Telegraph recently as heralding the death knell for large scale solar in the UK.