Sea & Land Power & Energy Ltd v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (1) Great Yarmouth Borough Council (2) (2012)

The case was a challenge against a Planning Inspector’s decision to uphold the refusal of planning consent for a wind farm on land near Great Yarmouth. The farm would have consisted of four wind turbines with associated infrastructure.

The planning officer’s report to committee recommended refusal of the application on the basis that the proposals were contrary to a number of local plan policies. The committee agreed and refused consent accordingly, citing the detrimental visual impact the development would have on the nearby designated Norfolk Broads, and because it could not rule out compromise to the integrity of the nearby Special Conservation Area and Ramsar Site.

The applicant appealed, pointing out that the proposal would have contributed to regional and national renewable energy targets. Reference was made to the national planning policy (in PPS1 – this pre-dated the NPPF) promoting the use of renewable resources.

This case is a useful reminder of the statutory duty to determine planning applications in accordance with the development plan unless material considerations indicate otherwise. National planning policy is just one of those material considerations which must be weighed up against all others – the balance of weight is in the hands of the decision taker.

A national planning policy cannot require “primacy” to be given to national policy over statutory local policies. The court dismissed the challenge.

This wind farm case is a useful reminder of the statutory duty to determine planning applications in accordance with local development policies unless material considerations indicate otherwise. National policies promoting the use of renewable energy are one material consideration, which must be factored into the decision taker’s balancing exercise.