A legal battle to build a wind farm in north east England has ended in defeat for National Wind Power (NWP). The High Court upheld a decision by Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott to disallow the development of 15 turbines at High Moor in County Durham. NWP had challenged two refusal decisions by Prescott, who is also Secretary of State for Environment, Transport and the Regions. Prescott had backed the recommendation of his planning inspector to refuse consent after a public inquiry. NWP won one of its challenges: Prescott accepted he had incorrectly refused consent for works on common land and withdrew his decision. But the more important refusal of planning permission still stands. NWP says that given the limited scope for intervention by the High Court, it is not surprised by the decision. The court was only able to address the legal validity of the decision making process-not the planning merits of the proposed wind farm. Neither could it address the positive developments in planning policy supportive of wind energy since the public inquiry into High Moor in June 1998, claims NWP. "Against that background, it is particularly striking that the High Court judgement distances itself from the planning inspector's conclusion that the clean energy benefits of the proposal would be insignificant." NWP defends taking its case to the court, saying that its action has raised the profile of wind farm planning issues. "Since the public inquiry at which High Moor wind farm was refused consent, successive statements by planning minister Richard Caborn and by Environment Secretary Michael Meacher have addressed issues raised by the High Moor decision, and have stated categorically the need for renewables including wind."
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