Fight for the principles of community energy

Crowdfunding for defense in the high court

4 March 2016

The forthcoming judicial review of a decision made by Forest of Dean Council in Gloucestershire to approve a 500kW community wind project will challenge the very principles of Community Energy. 

The case – brought by a single individual representing a small group of local objectors – could have fundamental consequences for all future community energy projects, whatever the technology in question (wind, solar, hydro) or the scale of the project, and regardless of the investment approach.

Resilient Energy Severndale is the project in the spotlight. It was approved by the Forest of Dean planning committee in August 2015 with a majority of 10:3 in favour and one abstention. A culmination of several years’ development work (by a local social purpose business, the Resilience Centre), it is one of the few wind projects to be approved since June 2015, when new national planning guidance for wind energy came in.

The councillors’ decision recognised the positive social, environmental and economic benefits of the proposed turbine and the high level of local support. They approved it on the condition that the project becomes a Community Benefit Society, to enshrine the local benefits.

This decision is now the subject of a judicial review that challenges two key community energy principles, namely that:

  1. The community benefit of projects can be given positive weight in the planning process. The council is accused of acting unlawfully by doing so in their decision.
  2. A Community Benefit Society is an appropriate legal entity to carry such projects.

As the outcome of the case is important for the community energy sector at large, Resilient Energy have launched a crowdfunding appeal to help cover the substantial defense costs. If the case is won and the project goes ahead, they plan to repay contributions.

Pledges of support are needed by Tuesday 22 March. The case will be heard in the high court on 21 April.

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