Opponents of a controversial windfarm plan have launched a High Court bid to derail the development. London-based solicitor Susan Ring has applied to try and quash plans for three 266ft turbines at Higher Darracott, near Torrington, North Devon. Ms Ring is acting for Pat and Arthur Paulton, who live 500 metres from the site designated for the windfarm.
Ms Ring, who works for the legal firm Richard Buxton, said: "If the Government builds roads it compensates people who fall within the development area, so why should people who live near turbines not be treated the same? "My clients simply feel that if landowners want to let their land be used for wind turbines they should be built near their homes, not other people's." The windfarm proposals were given approval by a Government-appointed planning inspector after appeal in May.
But the Paultons' legal advisers have now filed an application under Section 288 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, claiming the value of their home will be directly affected.
The grounds for the action are that "the planning inspector erred in law, in failing to determine the impact of the development on the value of the claimant's property".
The legal action invokes Article One, Protocol One of the European Convention of Human Rights, which is incorporated into UK law under the auspices of the Human Rights Act.
Ms Ring said the aim of the action was to have the plans thrown out, but she also believes it is a "test case" which could force the Government to introduce a compensation scheme for people who live near windfarms. She said: "Why should my clients bear the brunt of something done in the public's interest without compensation? "We are talking about the development of public infrastructure but there is no compensation scheme in place at all." Ms Ring added that the landowners had been notified, as had Environment Secretary and Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, who approved the plans at appeal in May, and Torridge District Council, the local planning authority.
Mr and Mrs Paulton, who run a car breaker's yard at Huntshaw, refused to comment on the High Court action yesterday, saying only that the whole situation has been a "stressful time".
The landowners, Sara and Perry George, said they were unaware of the legal move, as did the firm bidding to build the turbines, West Coast Energy. Both said that as far as they were concerned, it was "full steam ahead".
Several sites as well as Higher Darracott have been targeted for turbines, some as high as 360ft. These include plans for 18 turbines at Week St Mary in North Cornwall, 20 at Fullabrook Down in North Devon, three at Bradworthy, which have been approved on appeal, and two at Cucklington, South Somerset.
A public inquiry in March heard that if windfarm plans for Higher Darracott were blocked then "nowhere" else in the Westcountry would be suitable.
Planning inspector David Cullingford upheld the appeal, saying he did not find that the scheme would "seriously impair" the landscape.
An outcome from the new legal move is expected within six months. "They will fight this all the way," Ms Ring said.