The Administrative Court has given judgment in R (RWE Npower Renewables Ltd) v. Milton Keynes Council  EWHC 751 (Admin). Milton Keynes Council adopted a Supplementary Planning Document which, among other things, set minimum separation distances between wind turbines and residential properties, calculated by reference to turbine height. To comply with the SPD, a 125m turbine would have to be sited at least 1,217m from the nearest dwelling – unless all inhabitants of dwellings closer than that gave their agreement. The Council’s adopted development plan provides for turbines to be sited “at least 350m” from dwellings.
The judgment, by John Howell QC sitting as a Deputy Judge, is complex, running to some 218 paragraphs plus an Annex. But in short, the claim succeeded on a single ground, namely that the minimum separation distances set by the SPD were in conflict with the development plan, breaching reg. 8(3) of the Town and Country Planning (Local Planning) (England) Regulations 2012. Other elements of the SPD policy, including guidance on separation distance between turbines and footpaths/bridleways, were not in conflict with the plan (since the SPD did not tie grant or refusal of planning permission to satisfaction of these criteria). But the Deputy Judge could not be sure the Council would have adopted an SPD containing these policies alone, and felt unable to “edit” the SPD’s supporting text to remove those parts relating solely to the residential separation distances. So he quashed the whole SPD, leaving the Council to decide how to proceed.
The other key findings were:
This might not be the last word – the Deputy Judge gave the Council permission to appeal.
Gordon Nardell QC and James Burton appeared for RWE; Richard Harwood QC appeared for the Council.
You can read the judgment here.