Case: Application to quash wind farm decision accepted

26th March 2021

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Martin Broderick

In Pearce v Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the claimant applied for an order quashing the Secretary’s consent for the Vanguard wind farm.

The project was related to the Boreas wind farm, and it was proposed they share onshore infrastructure. The interested party applied for consent for Vanguard and submitted an environmental statement assessing the cumulative landscape and visual impacts of both projects. It concluded there were likely to be adverse environmental effects.

The interested party then applied for consent for Boreas. When determining the Vanguard application, the Secretary decided information about the Boreas project was “limited” and should be considered during the Boreas application. The issue was whether the Secretary breached the Infrastructure Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2009 by not considering the overall cumulative impacts of both projects when determining the Vanguard application.

Under the Regulations, a decision-maker could not grant consent without being satisfied they had sufficient information to evaluate and assess likely environmental effects. The Secretary had breached the Regulations by failing to re-evaluate information on the cumulative impacts.

Where projects are linked, without any rational justification, cumulative impacts must be evaluated when granting consent in each case – even when little information about the second project is available. In this case, the Secretary’s excuse that information was “limited” was illogical and irrational, and several features required the cumulative impacts to be assessed as part of the Vanguard decision.

The reasons for postponing consideration of the cumulative impacts were inadequate. Even if it had been acceptable to suspend consideration, the statement that information on Boreas was “limited” did not stop the requirement for the decision to be adequately reasoned.

The court found no justification to withhold relief sought by the claimant, and quashed consent.

Image credit | iStock

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