United Kingdom
Environmental Impact Assessments, Property, Standing, Constitutional, Inspections, Wetlands, Remedies, Air pollution, Wildlife, Jurisdiction
Ecotricity Group Ltd is a green electricity company which has built wind turbines and sold electricity across Britain since 1995. It was the successful applicant for a planning permission. The proposed location of the wind turbines is at the site of Lotus Cars Limited in Hethel, Norfolk. These judicial review proceedings seek to overturn the planning permission granted for the erection of three wind turbines in Norfolk. There is a fundamental objection to the decision, that the planning committee did not have the power to decide the matter since, in broad terms, the council's constitution is unlawful. Other aspects of the challenge are more conventional, for example, that the planning committee failed to take into account relevant factors or decided the issue on the basis of a misleading report. It is also said that the notice of planning permission contains conditions which are unreasonable and unenforceable because they rely on steps being taken off site. Finally, there is an issue relating to the failure to inform the public about the decision, as required by the environmental impact assessment directive and regulations. The claimant's attack on the lawfulness of the planning decision focuses on the statutory requirement for majority voting. His submission was that any attempt to change majority voting was in breach of schedule 12 of the Local Government Act 1972. As paragraph 39(1) is applied to committees by paragraph 44 of the schedule, a council's constitutional arrangements for its committees cannot alter the requirement for a simple majority. A council's constitution cannot require a particular majority, such as two-thirds of the committee, or a proportion of the membership of a committee to vote, unless an enactment enables that. The council and Ecotricity appear to argue that the area planning committee had no power to decide the matter because of the scheme of delegation in the constitution. The Administrative Court dismissed the claimant company's application for judicial review, finding that there could be no criticism of the planning committee's decision of 23 July 2008 to grant planning permission even though a previous local area planning committee had assessed the application differently. Further, a declaration would be made as to the authority's failure to advertise and to produce a statement compliant with reg 21 of the Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) England and Wales Regulations 1999, SI 1999/293. There was a clear obligation, enshrined in the Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) (England and Wales) Regulations 1999 reg.21, on a local planning authority to publish a notice to the public informing them of any planning decision. Merely placing a planning permission on the local authority's website was insufficient since the Regulation required positive steps to inform the public, such as by local advertisement, although such a failure would not render the grant of planning permission itself unlawful.