High Court overrules Pickles' 'prejudice' against solar project
The High Court has overturned a decision by the Eric Pickles to reject a planning application for a 24MW solar farm in Ellough, Suffolk.
On June 23, Justice Lindblom found in favour of Lark Energy, who had planned to construct the solar farm on the site of a former WWII airfield. The scheme was recommended for consent by the Planning Inspectorate after a public enquiry. However, Mr Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, stepped in and overturned the decision, rejecting the application in October 2013.
The judge found that Mr Pickles' decision was not made in the way required in the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 causing 'substantial prejudice' against Lark Energy. The High Court has refused the Secretary of State leave to appeal against its ruling.
The move comes after Mr Pickles also rejected plans for a 127-acre solar plant in Hacheston earlier this month.
Lark Energy development director Jo Wall welcomed the High Court's decision: "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."
Managing director Jonathan Selwyn agrees, and was surprised by the Secretary of State's original decision, since the application was supported by the community, attracting only three objections. Mr Selwyn said, "developers have the right to be treated fairly by both local councillors and the Secretary of State.
"It would seem that 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 engaged in the solar sector to understand."
Lark Energy has subsequently constructed a smaller, 14MW, solar plant in the area. This is far smaller than the original plans, which were to provide enough energy to power up to 7,000 homes.
June has seen record solar outputs across Europe with solar power providing an estimated 7.8% of UK's electricity during the daylight hours of the summer solstice and Germany generating more than half its electricity from solar for the first time on June 9.