Wind turbines – planning application: noise investments and ‘financial involvement’

A recent case, R (Joicey) v Northumberland County Council, is a reminder of the information that should be made available to the public in applications involving wind turbines and the meaning of ‘financial involvement’, and may be of relevance if you are involved in an application relating to a wind turbine.

In this case, which was a claim for judicial review of a decision to grant planning permission, it was held that a noise assessment had not been made available in a timely manner for public inspection (it having been placed on the council website one day prior to the planning committee’s meeting).  As a result, the council had breached its statutory obligations as well as its own statement of community involvement - a statement of its “policy as to the involvement in the exercise of its functions, including its development control functions, of persons who appear to have an interest in matters relating to development in their area”.  This included the publishing of the application with supporting documentation on the council website.  The claim was allowed.

The court also considered the noise assessment itself and the meaning of ‘financial involvement’ in line with the guidelines councils must follow when considering the noise impact of proposed wind turbines, (The Assessment and Rating of Noise from Wind Farms, ETSU-R-97 (“ETSU’)).  If the occupier of a property has some financial involvement in the wind turbine, ETSU suggests the allowed limits on noise can be higher.  In this case, the properties were in the applicant’s control and the assessment was based on all the properties being financially involved in the wind turbine.  However, some of the properties were occupied by tenants and this had not been taken into account.  It was held that the company preparing the report and, through it, the authority, had been “wrong to assume that because all the properties there were owned by the applicant that was the end of the matter and there was a financial involvement”.  ETSU refers to the occupiers having the financial involvement and it was therefore held that “the applicant’s tenants [did] not have a financial involvement by virtue of the applicant’s own financial involvement”.

This case highlights the importance of providing information to the public and allowing the public time to digest that information.  The council’s failure to comply with this requirement resulted in the claim for judicial review being allowed and serves as a reminder that procedural requirements must be followed absolutely.

The case also provided helpful guidance on what is deemed ‘financial involvement’ where an applicant’s property is occupied by tenants.


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