Gas storage plans will be re-considered

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A controversial gas storage company has received permission to have their planning application re-considered following a ruling in the High Court.

Halite Energy’s plans to carve out 19 underground caverns in the salt strata beneath the River Wyre were initially rejected by Edward Davey, the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, in April.

However, following a Judicial Review, the decision was today quashed by a High Court judge and the Government will have to re-consider the application.

Halite’s application had been recommended for approval by the Planning Inspectorate, but only on the basis that it provided the required geological information.

But the Secretary of State rejected the scheme due to insufficient geological data.

A statement released by Halite said: “The Board of Halite Energy Group will be working with its legal and planning advisers and looks forward to participating in the process that will lead to a redetermination of our application by the Secretary of State.”

In court, Halite attacked the Government’s decision to reject the application as ‘irrational and perverse’ and triumphed when Mrs Justice Paterson ruled that it had not been fairly treated.

Ordering a full reconsideration of Halite’s planning application, the judge, sitting in London, said too high a threshold had been imposed on the company when it came to assessing the viability of the project and the geological challenges it faced.

The judge said the ‘real deficiencies’ in the Secretary of State’s reasoning were enough to make his decision ‘irrational’.

Halite’s counsel, Michael Humphries QC, told the court the plans had been looked at in detail by an examining body working for the planning inspectorate which ultimately recommended that development consent be granted, subject to tight conditions.

However, Mr Davey went his own way, refusing consent, and Halite argued it was simply ‘unlawful’ for him to do that.

The company argued that permission had been refused, not because of any safety concerns, but because Mr Davey said that, on the geological information available, he could not be sure the benefits of the project would outweigh the inevitable harm to the local landscape.

The Secretary of State had also expressed concerns that, when it came down to it, the local geology might prove unsuitable or that only a ‘much smaller’ storage facility than that currently proposed by Halite would in fact prove feasible.

Mr Humphries argued successfully that, in reaching his decision, Mr Davey applied too tough a legal test when he required Halite to prove the benefits and viability of its proposals ‘beyond reasonable doubt’.

Mr Davey’s conclusion that the company had provided inadequate geological information - without telling it what details he needed to see - was also procedurally unfair, the court ruled.

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