Yesterday Mr Justice Kenneth Parker refused permission for an application for Judicial Review of Herefordshire Council’s 2012 consenting of Reeves Hill Wind Farm. The decision, made during an oral hearing at the Bristol Civil Justice Centre on 17 Apr 2013, reaffirms Judge Bidder QC’s earlier refusal of a written application in August of last year.
In our view, this refusal simply reflects the constraints of the JR process and does not make the Council’s decision to issue consent any less objectionable. Whilst developers can appeal against a refusal to issue planning permission, the JR process open to objectors deals only with the way a decision is made. It does not address the decision itself so there was no scope for detailed arguments about the way in which the developer’s biased assessment of landscape and noise impacts were uncritically accepted by the Council.
The arguments produced by both sides in the JR hearing had to rely mainly on the Council’s own carefully and defensively drafted Officer’s Report to the Planning Committee on 14 Sept. 2011. Between their shambolic first Committee Meeting in 2009 and their final resolution they have had ample time to massage the wording of this Report – a silk purse from a pig’s ear!
Members of the public were shocked and disgusted by the sloppy, ill-informed and seemingly partisan manner in which the 2009 planning Committee Meeting was conducted. Unlike Powys Council, who broadcast their proceedings on the web, Herefordshire Council make no audio or visual record of what is said at their Planning Committee Meetings and do not allow the public to do so either. Coupled with the Council’s own selective minute taking, this undemocratic control of information proved to be a significant factor in yesterday’s hearing.