Orby Wind Farm Inquiry postponed due to planning inspector’s death

The unexpected death of a planning inspector has cast further delays over a contentious and long-running wind farm application.

The Planning Inspectorate has today announced that the Orby Wind Farm Inquiry will have to be re-run in its entirety following the sudden death of inspector Trevor Cookson.

A statement from Leanne Palmer of the Planning Inspectorate said: “It is with profound regret that I must inform you that inspector Trevor Cookson collapsed and died on Tuesday April 2.

“His death was entirely unexpected and has come as a complete shock.

“Given that extensive inquiry evidence was heard by Mr Cookson before adjournment, it seems to the Planning Inspectorate that there is little alternative other than for the inquiry to be re-run in its entirety before a new inspector.

“This is because we feel that any decision taken by a different inspector, on the basis of discussions and questioning at inquiry sessions heard solely by Mr Cookson could be challenged, whatever the decision was.”

The inquiry, which had been adjourned after an initial hearing in October was due to resume on March 26, but had already been delayed due to ill health.

A new date had not yet been announced but the opposing parties are expected to decide on a schedule with the replacement inspector within a fortnight.

An earlier hearing in July 2012 had also been delayed due to procedural errors by East Lindsey District Council, which failed to inform all of the relevant parties about its occurrence.

Before reaching the inquiry stage, landowner Mark Caudwell’s application had already been rumbling on through the planning system for the past decade.

His original application for 20 turbines submitted in 2003 was rejected after the Ministry of Defence feared it would interfere with radar at RAF Coningsby.

A scaled-down proposal for nine smaller turbines was also rejected by ELDC, which claimed that along with other proposed developments it would pose a ‘significant harmful effect on the locally distinctive character and appearance of the local area and on the wider landscape.’

Orby Windfarm Action Group (OWAG) has opposed the proposal throughout its ten year history and submitted evidence at October’s hearing, at great legal costs to its members.

It would need to find more money to fund its legal expenses at the re-run.