Council criticised over site visit ‘shambles’

13:25 21 November 2012

Torridge District Council has been criticised for not turning up to wind turbine appeals.

Torridge District Council has been criticised for not turning up to wind turbine appeals.

Archant

An inspector calls – but Torridge planning officers turn up 40 minutes late to one wind turbine appeal and miss the other completely.

TORRIDGE District Council has come under fire for failing to defend its own decisions on wind turbine developments.

Officers from the council twice failed to turn up to site visits with Government planning inspectors in the space of three weeks.

The applications – one for a 46-metre-high turbine at Huxhill Farm and another for a 25-metre turbine at Higher Huxhill Farm, both near Gammaton Cross on the outskirts of Bideford – were refused planning permission by the council in the summer.

The decisions have since been appealed by both applicants and site visits arranged to allow inspectors from Bristol to see the locations before deciding whether to uphold the appeals.

On October 9, a site visit at Huxhill Farm went ahead 40 minutes late after a member of the public walked up a hill to phone the council’s planning office and inform them of the visit.

The council said it ‘knew nothing’ about the visit but eventually sent an officer to join the planning inspector, as well as the appellant, agent and around six objectors, who are now anxiously awaiting a decision by the inspector.

Then on October 31, a similar inspection at Higher Huxhill Farm was abandoned by an inspector after an officer from the council failed to turn up at all.

This time the inspector tried to raise the council herself but nobody answered the phone so she abandoned the meeting. A visit has since been re-scheduled for November 30.

“We thought they’d learned their lesson after the first visit but then the same thing happened three weeks later,” said objector Patrick Smith, who lives around 600 metres from both sites.

“I felt highly embarrassed for the inspector, who came a long way to take the site visit.

“We have done everything we can under difficult circumstances to oppose this application; we have to be realistic, and are not hopeful, but all we wanted was an orderly site visit to take place.

“It is an appalling indictment of Torridge District Council planning who are supposed to be defending the plans committee’s refusal of this application.”

In an email to Mr Smith, Kate Little, the council’s head of planning, blamed the non-attendance on an ‘administrative error’.

She said: “This is a matter of human error and not a systems failure. The council would never deliberately miss a site visit or seek to delay it and we will be apologising to the appellant and the inspector who do have the right to expect us to turn up.”

Council leader Councillor Barry Parsons said: “It’s disappointing there has been an oversight but we will aim to make sure nothing like this happens again.”

It is not the first time that the Huxhill Farm application has caused controversy. In July, the district council was criticised for its ‘heavy handed’ approach after fielding police and security guards to manage crowds at a planning meeting at Riverbank House.

Mr Smith said he had made a formal complaint to the district council about the planning department and was considering making a complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman.

He said: “It all comes down to their poor communication system. Letters are not acknowledged and phone calls are not answered.”

“The council is failing to mount a ‘robust’ defence of its own decisions; if these turbines get built you won’t see trees in Torridge for turbines,” he added.

“We’re going to be stuck with these things for the next 25-30 years – I think they are targeting Torridge because it’s a soft touch.”

Cllr Barry Parsons said: “The plans committee at Torridge always determines applications on their own merit and although wind turbine applications can be controversial each brings its own individual elements to be considered.

“Decisions made are based on planning considerations and are often a balancing act with the sustainable energy benefits being weighed up against environmental impact.

“Plans committee members often have a difficult job but are trained to understand the implications and approve or refuse applications based on the information presented to them.”

0 comments

Other News Stories

Yesterday, 23:16
The scene on the A39 tonight after two cars collided and caught fire. Picture: Kathryn-Racheal Ring

Road closed and reports of one man dragged from a blazing car as emergency services rush to the scene

Read more
Yesterday, 18:00
Nikky Williams who has become only the second woman to join the crew of Lyme Regis RNLI Lifeboat. Photo Richard Horobin

The 21-year-old sailing instructor is only the second woman to become a sea-going member of the life-saving team

Read more
Yesterday, 17:00
Honiton Charter Day. Town Crier, Dave Retter, shouts the market charter to deputy mayor Jackie Wadsworth and Elizabeth Thurgood of The Tudor Dance Group. Ref mhh 4970-31-15AW. Picture: Alex Walton

Visitors were treated to fun dancing sessions courtesy of LeRoc Modern Jive, The Tudor Dance Group and Westernspirit Line Dancing, while dog owners showed off their pets in a family dog show.

Read more
Yesterday, 16:30
Members of EDDC's Streetscene team investigating the sink hole on Exmouth beach

A permanent sign will be erected to warn people to stay away from the area of a sink hole which keeps reappearing on Exmouth beach.

Read more
Yesterday, 16:29
Paranormal activity or trick of the light? The supposed ‘ghost’ can be seen in the reflection of the mirror as  organist Nigel Ogden speaks.

This haunting image has left concert-goers wondering whether they weren’t the only ones enjoying the music – as a spooky shape resembling a ghost seemingly photo-bombs the shot.

Read more
Yesterday, 14:37
Lion President Ian Skinner presenting cheques to the local winners of the 2nd and 3rd prizes in last Sunday’s main yellow duck race. Mrs Richelle Hull (to the left of Ian) received a cheque for £100, and Mrs Melanie Pugsley (far right in photo, holding daughter Farah) received a £75 cheque.

A range of good causes have received a welcome cash boost thanks to a record breaking year at Sidmouth’s annual duck derby.

Read more
Yesterday, 14:35
Exmouth Visitor's Guide 2015/2016

The free Exmouth Visitors’ Guide 2015/2016 has been released, and is now available at the town hall and Tourist Information Service.

Read more
Yesterday, 14:31

Fire crews were called to tackle a major corn field blaze on Sidmouth’s coast path this morning (Friday).

Read more
Yesterday, 14:31
Martin Budd with his son Nathan will be joining around 25,000 other cyclists taking part in the 100 miles charity ride from the Olympic Park, out through Surrey and finishing on the Mall. Martin who celebrates his 50th birthday this weekend is riding for Sense while Nathan is raising moiney for CHSW. Ref exe 5892-30-15SH. Picture: Simon Horn

An Exmouth father and son are preparing to emulate the heroes of London 2012 in a 100-mile charity cycle hallenge.

Read more
Yesterday, 14:10
Vote

People are being asked if they think changes should be made to the number of polling stations in Exmouth - and if they are the right places.

Read more

Local Weather

Partly Cloudy

Partly Cloudy

max temp: 17°C

min temp: 10°C

Most Read News

Great British Life


Great British Life

Family Notices 24



Devon's trusted business finder