In a case which balanced the pressing need for more sources of renewable energy against potential impacts on scheduled ancient monuments, a mineral water firm has fought off a High Court challenge to its planning permission for the erection of two wind turbines to power its bottling plant.
Princes Gate Spring Water was granted consent for the two 60-metre high turbines on land at Ludchurch, Narbeth, Pembrokeshire, in July 2013. The firm said that the turbines would greatly reduce its energy costs and lead to it becoming operationally carbon neutral. However, the proposals met with stiff opposition from the owner of a nearby ancient monument, the Castell Mehiron Iron Age fort.
John Plant pointed out that the turbines would also be close to other monuments, including a standing stone and a group of Bronze Age barrows. He challenged the planning permission at the High Court, claiming that Pembrokeshire County Council had failed to properly interpret its own policy on the preservation of the character of ancient landscapes. He also claimed that a full environmental impact assessment should have been carried out before the consent was granted.
However, in dismissing his claim, the Court noted that a planning officer’s report – which had been prepared ‘with patent care’ – had described the likely impact of the turbines on landscape character, quality and diversity as ‘minimal and environmentally acceptable’.
The Court rejected arguments that, on a correct interpretation of Pembrokeshire’s local development plan (LDP), any impact at all on landscapes of historic importance should have been viewed as unacceptable. The overarching aim of the LDP was to achieve sustainable development and the Court noted that it would be ‘remarkable’ were the potential impact of developments on ancient monuments to be treated as in some way a ‘paramount or trump’ consideration.
The officer had properly balanced the adverse environmental impact of the turbines as a result of the proximity of the monuments against the positive environmental impact of the contribution to renewable energy resources.
Mr Plant also argued that the officer’s screening opinions – in which he concluded that an environmental impact assessment was unnecessary – were fundamentally flawed. However, the Court found that the officer had rationally decided that the effect on the archaeological landscape would not be significant.