We have just received news of this court case and plea for crowd funding, from the Centre for Sustainable Energy.
A scheme in the Forest of Dean, with a high level of local support, is facing a legal challenge by a small number of local objectors. If successful, this challenge could have far-reaching consequence for the future of all Community Energy projects.
A Judicial Review will decide whether, as claimed by the scheme’s opponents, the Forest of Dean Council’s planning commitee acted unlawfully by giving positive weight to the community benefits of the scheme. It is also suggested that a Community Benefit Society is not an appropriate legal entity under which to bring forward such projects and cannot be considered to be a legal structure with over-riding benefit to the local community.
Read on for more detail.
Funding urgently needed to fight for the principles of Community Energy
The principles of Community Energy are being challenged in the High Court in a Judicial Review of a decision made by the Forest of Dean Council to approve a 500kW community wind project. The case – brought by a single individual representing a small group of local objectors – could have fundamental consequences for all future community energy projects irrespective of renewable energy technology, project scale or investment approach.
The project in the spotlight, Resilient Energy Severndale, was approved by the Forest of Dean planning committee in August 2015 with a majority of 10:3 in favour and one abstention. The culmination of several years’ development work (by Forest of Dean based social purpose business, The Resilience Centre), it is one of the few wind projects to receive approval following new national planning guidance for wind energy issued in June 2015.
In making their decision, councillors’ recognised the positive social, environmental and economic benefits the proposed turbine would bring and the high level of local support. Approval was granted conditional on the project being developed as a Community Benefit Society, in recognition of the local benefits this would enshrine.
This decision is now the subject of a Judicial Review, with two key Community Energy principles challenged, namely:
- That the benefits of Community projects can be given positive weight in the planning process. The Council is accused of acted unlawfully in giving positive weight to community benefit in their decision making.
- That a Community Benefit Society is not an appropriate legal entity under which to bring forward such projects and cannot be considered to be a legal structure with over-riding benefit to the local community.
Given the substantial costs of defending the case in the High Court and importance of the outcome to the Community Energy sector at large, Resilient Energy have launched a crowdfunding appeal to help contribute to costs. Assuming the case is won and the project proceeds, the intention is to repay any contributions made by supporters. Go to www.crowdfunder.co.uk/high-court-challenge-to-aims-of-community-energy to show your support.
The case will be heard in the High Court on 21 April. Pledges of support are needed byTuesday 22 March.