Retired RAF pilot wins legal challenge over government approval of Norfolk wind farm

·3-min read
Vattenfall's offshore Norfolk Vanguard project is to be one of the largest in the world.
Vattenfall's offshore Norfolk Vanguard project is to be one of the largest in the world.

A retired RAF pilot has defeated the government in court over proposals to build a new wind farm off the coast of Norfolk.

A High Court judge overturned a decision to grant permission to the Norfolk Vanguard wind farm, one of the largest offshore wind projects in the world, after a legal challenge brought by Raymond Pearce.

Lawyers for Mr Pearce, who has crowdfunded more than £15,000 to challenge the plans, argued that ministers had failed to take into account the "cumulative" impact of the Vanguard project and a second project, the Norfolk Boreas, proposed by the same developer, Swedish company Vattenfall.

Mr Justice Holgate, who heard arguments at a High Court hearing in January, ruled in Mr Pearce's favour on Thursday.

The judge said the rules had been breached because of a failure to to take into account the impact of the two developments together.

Consent for the Vanguard project had been granted in July 2020, when Alok Sharma was business secretary, the judge heard, while a decision on the Boreas project is set to be announced in April.

The windfarm, set to contain 158 turbines, would generate power in the North Sea which would then be transported via cables to a substation in Necton, Norfolk, just under 40 miles away. A second substation would be built for the Boreas project.

Vattenfall says the proposed farm would provide enough electricity to power the equivalent of 1.95 million homes.

Wind farms are a central part of the UK's environmental plans, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledging to turn Britain into the "Saudi Arabia" of wind power.

Local people had raised concerns about the visual damage to the landscape from the substations and Mr Pearce had previously said he planned to move to escape the cables which were due to run just 80m away from his home.

Following the ruling Mr Pearce said he hoped the decision would prompt the developers to opt instead for an offshore transmission network, removing the need for power to be cabled into land.

A review into an offshore network was launched by the government last year, with National Grid ESO estimating that it could save about £6bn and halve the number of cables and landing points, reducing the impact on coastal communities and the rural landscape.

"It's cheaper for the consumer, there's £6bn of savings for the end user, and they're more environmentally friendly because you're not digging up the countryside to have direct point-to-point transmission systems.

"This is about saving the environment. If you dug a 45 meter wide, 60 kilometer trench, 1.2 meters down, would that damage the environment?

"The loss of carbon absorption by all the plants and the trees and everything that would be lost - the pouring of concrete, the smelting of copper to provide the cables, the cladding of the cables in UPVC, the ducting of the cables in UPVC.

"This is all immediate release of carbon gases, which has an impact on the atmosphere, and it will take a wind farm a significant time to recover that release. It has to be looked at holistically," he said.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial strategy said it was "disappointed by the outcome".

"We will be considering the judgment carefully before deciding next steps," she added.

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