Judge allows MoD to appeal wind turbine decision

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A judge has cited compelling “national security reasons” in giving the Ministry of Defence the right to challenge planning permissions granted to erect two wind turbines near one of the RAF’s key defence radar systems in North Yorkshire.

The High Court challenge, brought by the MoD’s Defence Infrastructure Organisation arm, relates to two turbines under development on separate sites in the East Riding - each of them scheduled to be over 75 metres high.

The Ministry’s barrister, Richard Wald, explained that planning consent was initially granted by East Riding of Yorkshire Council in December last year after the MoD “withdrew its objections” on the strict understanding that conditions would be imposed “safeguarding the integrity of the nearby air defence radar system at Staxton Wold”.

Staxton Wold, between Scarborough and Bridlington, is one of only six such radar systems around the UK, he told Mr Justice Haddon-Cave, which “collectively enable the detection of airborne threats from within the UK and abroad”.

The conditions envisaged that the developers would pay for computer software to enable the radar to distinguish between the presence of the turbine and any threats - as well as putting up a £1million “bond” which they could forfeit if the MoD had to transfer its radar base.

However, through an “oversight”, those conditions were left out of the formal grant of planning consent, said Mr Justice Haddon-Cave today, prompting the MoD to launch an urgent judicial review challenge.

Mr Wald said the MoD had no objection to erection of the wind turbines in principle, but was adamant that the conditions needed to be in force to ensure the radar installation remained fully effective.

“The reason that national security comes into play is that the purpose of the radar is to defend the realm from enemy attack,” he told the judge.

The MoD’s challenge was opposed by the developers of the proposed wind turbines - situated on land near Poplar Farm, Rimswell, East Riding, and at Elm Tree Farm, in Brigham, East Riding.

They argued that the MoD had delayed too long in mounting its legal challenge.

But the judge said he had no doubt it was right to allow the MoD’s case to proceed to a full hearing.

“There are to my mind questions of national security here,” he told the court.

“The Staxton Wold radar is one of six national radar systems which protect the UK, and the condition which should have been imposed was directed to ensure the integrity of that system.”

The case will now return to the High Court for a full hearing of all the issues on a later date, which has yet to be set.