Plans for future wind farms in Britain could be in jeopardy after a United Nations legal tribunal ruled that the UK Government acted illegally by denying the public decision-making powers over their approval and the “necessary information” over their benefits or adverse effects.
The new ruling, agreed by a special United Nations committee in Geneva, calls into question the legal validity of any further planning consent for all future wind-farm developments based on current policy, both onshore and offshore.
The United Nations Economic Commission Europe has declared that the UK flouted Article 7 of the Aarhus Convention, which requires full and effective public participation on all environmental issues and demands that citizens are given the right to participate in the process.
The UNECE committee has also recommended that the UK must in the future submit all plans and programmes similar in nature to the National Renewable Energy Action Plan to public participation, as required by Article 7.
The controversial decision will come as a blow for the Coalition’s wind-power policy, which is already coming under attack from anti-wind campaigners who want developments stopped because of increasing medical evidence showing that the noise from turbines is having a serious impact on public health as well as damaging the environment. No wonder Mr. Cameron intimated that we may not see many more wind farms in England a few days ago. I think however that there will be some disappointment that action is not retrospective and only future plans will require full scrutiny.
Where though does that leave Scotland where Salmond believes that he can walk on water and rules for others don’t affect him?
There is an issue here that might backfire on Pat Swords and all who hope for a better alternative. This same ruling could be imposed on fracking and put development back five years. That will be an own goal!
However we must be grateful to Pat Swords and Christine Metcalfe for their dogged perseverance in pressing this through the tortuous legal proceedings. What it has done is drawn a line in the sand and may help many objections that border or include such as SSIs and AONBs. We shall see in the coming months how this plays out in such as Energy Consents and PLIs.