Julian Challenges Council on Environmental Impact Assessments for Wind Turbine Applications
March 12, 2014
The City of York Council has been accused of failing to follow planning guidance correctly when deciding on screening opinions for wind turbines by the York Outer MP, Julian Sturdy.
Two screening opinions for proposed turbines at Murton Moor and Kexby have recently been submitted to the Council to determine whether or not Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA) will be required in support of formal planning applications. With the Murton Moor screening opinion, the Council has decided that an EIA is not necessary and a leaked email reveals that the Council’s reasoning was based on the belief that EIAs are only required on proposals for five turbines or more.
However, Julian has sought independent advice and he believes the Council has mistaken the guidance. While there is a threshold criteria of two turbines, this is merely to determine whether or not a screening opinion must be submitted and can be superseded if the turbine is over 15m tall. The criteria for deciding whether an EIA is required is very different and Julian claims there are several examples of EIAs being enforced on single turbine applications in other parts of the Country.
Julian has written to Darren Richardson, the Council’s Director of City and Environmental Services, to ask the Council to review its decision making. He has also raised his concerns with the Government Planning Inspectors and last week he raised the issue in Parliament.
During Business of the House questions, Julian said:
“May we have a statement about the criteria for Environmental Impact Assessments to be carried out on wind turbine applications to ensure they are properly scrutinised? In my constituency, the local council has decided that such an assessment is not required on a forthcoming planning application in a sensitive area, but I fear, in my generosity, that it may have misinterpreted current guidance.”
Andrew Lansley MP, the Leader of the House, responded by saying:
“My hon. Friend knows that planning regulations set out the procedure for establishing whether an environmental impact assessment is required. Not every wind turbine development will require one, and the need for an EIA depends on a proposal’s size and location, and whether it is likely to have a significant effect on the environment. I hope that when my hon. Friend looks at the planning regulations—as I know he will have done—he will be able to challenge if necessary whatever decision his local authority may have made. If I may, I will raise the issue with my hon. Friends at the Department for Communities and Local Government, and he may wish to have a further conversation with them about whatever interpretation the local authority has taken.”
Reflecting on this issue, Julian said:
“I am very concerned to learn that the Council may have failed to follow the appropriate guidance on these screening opinions for wind turbines on York’s greenbelt. EIAs are an important means of scrutinising applications and I am frustrated that the developer has managed to skip an important hurdle in their quest for an 80m turbine at Murton Moor. I sincerely hope the Council will review its position ahead of the Kexby proposal.”