A recent high court judgment (August 2012) provides an interesting judgement on the thorny issue of the legality of killing of birds and bats at wind farm sites. This is a subject that we have debated at a number of wind farm public inquiries.
For instance, at the inquiry into the Crimp Windfarm in 2008, one of the principal issues considered, and one of the prime reasons the planning authority gave for refusal of the application, was the likely killing of bats as a result of the operation of the wind farm. It was considered by the planning authority to be contrary to the Habitat Directive, and to the authority’s duty to have regard to the objectives of the Directive. The approach taken by the planning authority at that inquiry, that every bat was strictly protected, seems to be very similar to the case made by the claimant in the recent Eaton case.
The issue of the legality of bat deaths and how this might be addressed through licensing was also raised at the public inquiry into the Cheverton Wind Farm on the Isle of Wight. We considered the rather inconclusive decision notice from that case in our recent article about that inquiry.
Such cases illustrate that the issue of how best to consider the potential death or injury of bats and birds in the course of the operation of a wind farm is a very real issue. The recent Eaton case seems to help clarify the matter, with a high court decision that could help guide applicants, planning authorities and professional advisors.
Dr Peter Shepherd has reviewed the judgment, and in this broad summary of the case he summarises some of its key points and considers the potential ecological implications of the case for wind farm developments.