Another recent case will be welcomed by electricity undertakers, but highlights some of the tensions in the topical debates around sustainable development and national infrastructure.
It involved an unsuccessful application for judicial review of a decision made by the Secretary of State pursuant to section 37 Electricity Act 1989 to allow seven new pylons to be erected, and to grant associated wayleaves over private land in the green belt. It was common ground that there was an urgent need to increase electricity supply in the locality.
The Secretary of State's decision letter made it clear that the development was inappropriate for the green belt, but that the potential harm was outweighed by other factors, including the uncertain amount of delay and the additional costs which would result from any of the alternative proposals involving underground cabling. The judgment found that the Secretary of State had made his decision balancing the correct factors and reached a valid decision, even if he had differed from his own inspectors as to the amount of weight to be given to some of them.
Several technical grounds were rejected including two alleged breaches of the Human Rights Act 1998. In particular, the court found that the Secretary of State, in exercising his power under the Electricity Act to direct that planning permission for the pylons was deemed to be granted, had no duty to have regard to the local development plan.