A High Court judge has outlawed a council's plan to insist on minimum distances between wind turbines and houses

Wind turbine 'buffer zone' thrown out by judge

Campaigners have welcomed a decision to outlaw a council's plans for minimum distances between wind turbines and houses.

Friends of the Earth said Milton Keynes Borough Council's "buffer zone" plan would have been a "significant blow" to attempts to create a "safe, clean and affordable" energy system.

Deputy High Court judge John Howell QC yesterday said the policy was in conflict with an already-agreed development plan for the Milton Keynes area and ruled against the council after an energy firm questioned the policy at a High Court hearing in London.

Friends of the Earth planning campaigner Naomi Luhde-Thompson said: "These short-sighted plans to restrict wind farm development would have dealt a significant blow to efforts to build a safe, clean and affordable energy system, not just in Milton Keynes but in other areas too."

The campaign group's Milton Keynes campaigner, Rebecca McKinney, added: "The council's attempts to introduce a buffer zone would have made most of the area a no-go location for wind turbines.

"Many local communities are embracing wind projects, seeing them as a clean, green alternative to expensive imports of gas. Wind power is a key part of the mix of renewable energy that we need to see grow in the UK if we want a chance to avoid catastrophic climate change."

Judge Howell said the council planned to separate turbines from homes by minimum distances which would vary according to turbine height, causing RWE Npower Renewables to mount a challenge at a hearing in February.

The firm said if the plan was validated other planning authorities might adopt similar policies, which would put "any proposal at risk of rejection" and "nullify" national guidance which encouraged the development of renewable energy.

Judge Howell upheld the firm's application for judicial review, concluding that the policy was in conflict with an adopted development plan for Milton Keynes, because it sought to amend a minimum distance requirement contained in the development plan.

RWE had also argued that the buffer-zone plan had not been subjected to a sufficiently rigorous examination by council members and that the council had "failed to have regard" to government advice on wind turbine development.

But the judge rejected those grounds of challenge.

A Milton Keynes council spokesman said: "Of the four grounds contested by the claimant, which saw them try and find the document unlawful, Milton Keynes council won three."

The council's Conservative leader, Andrew Geary, added: "I have no doubt the action the council has taken is in the best interest of the residents of Milton Keynes and we will be looking at how we move forward."

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