NIMBY, NIMTO – Wind mills and local planning laws. The High Court in Hemsby.

In May, the High Court confirmed the refusal of the relevant local authority for the building of a wind farm in Hemsby, a seaside resort in the English county of Norfolk.

The usual disclaimer applies: I am not necessarily au fait with the ins and outs of the local planning regulations. The judgment is most certainly not, as some would have it (admittedly in entertaining fashion), a case in which the courts side with David in a struggle against Goliath. Rather, the Court (Lang J) found that the local authorities were within their rights to refuse planning permission, on the grounds that their being built there would go against the inclusion of the site as a protected landscape and site of scenic beauty, in relevant prior planning documents.  Lang J emphasised this as a legitimate exercise of planning judgment. Montesquieu’s bouche de la loi:

(…) many of the provisions of development plans are framed in language whose application to a given set of facts requires the exercise of judgment. Such matters fall within the jurisdiction of planning authorities, and their exercise of their judgment can only be challenged on the ground that it is irrational or perverse (Tesco Stores Ltd v. Secretary of State for the Environment [1995] 1 WLR 659, 780 per Lord Hoffmann, cited by Lang J here).

A good excuse to recall NIMBY, which many will be familiar with, but also NIMTO, which you might be less so. As revealed to me some years back by Dan Esty at Yale, NIMTO may be an even more powerful phenomenon than NIMBY. Not In MY Term of Office: politicians tend to postpone controversial decisions to the next lot (opponents of the scheme involved will of course argue that it is rather the opposite: that local politicians finally have taken a stand).


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