A wind farm planning case in Wales has started to be taken note of because of the amazing turn of legal events involved.
The wind farm project lies a few miles east of Aberystwyth in the Cambrian moutains. It fell under national infrastructure planning law. The wind turbine project suffered because the government does not like land-based wind farms, but doesn't have any direct powers over them, having so far punished them by removing development subsidies available to offshore wind farms and other renewables.
So when this Wales project was actually blocked by planners, the developers took a high court appeal case against the refusal of planning permission which had then to be defended by a Government Minister.
The defence case posed a problem: what reasoned case could there be for the planning refusal ? What case could a Minister put up? Well, they turned to defence of the protected status of red kites who live and breed around and about the proposed site.
Fascinating reading, because the judge, Mr Justice Hickinbottom, perhaps sensed how important the case was, and set out a definitive summary of and precise references to European Habitat and Species law.
This provided a lovely summary of EU and UK cases, and also 11 principles derived from them. He also explained the role and limits of the vexed IROPI doctrine which has so worried environmental campaigners.
IROPI means Imperative Reasons of Public Interest, a doctrine encouraged into EU law by the UK government to give final overruling powers to ministers on planning and environmental matters. Very interesting reading for nature law watchers.
The judge supported the government case, and the kites got their protection, and the wind farm was defeated. The red kites involved, incidentally, only had to be "nearby" the wind farm site to enjoy the judge's European legal protection. (Case 20126, EWHC 2581(Admin) Cardiff Planning Court. 11th October 2016).
The Minister was the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Greg Clark MP. One wonders what ministers in the environment departments will be making of it all.
SAGE associates may be out there looking for red kites around Sizewell......