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

07:40
Skatepark users at Lyme Regis. Picture: SIMON EMMETT PHOTOGRAPHY

Professionals skaters and BMX riders will join local youngsters for the weekend celebrations

Read more
Terry Baker is hoping to hit the £500,000 mark before his 65th birthday. Picture: Sarah Howells

Terry Baker is hoping to hit the half-a-million-pound mark for Children’s Hospice South West before he turns 65.

Read more
07:00
North Devon Magistrates' Court.

The 46-year-old man was stopped by police when he was cycling up Sticklepath Hill with no lights.

Read more
06:30
Twins Star and Eva Watson with their painted  grafitti swing chair that they created will be on display. Ref exe art trail 2

Poems suspended from lampposts, painted graffiti and free creative workshops are some of the ideas to expect when the first ever Exmouth Art Trail hits the streets next month.

Read more
Yesterday, 19:54
Matt Booth

Landlords in Sidmouth and Ottery St Mary, with vacant family-sized properties, are being urged to come forward to help house Syrian refugees.

Read more
Yesterday, 16:48
June Woodward was presented with Ottery's Citizen of the Year award by mayor Glyn Dobson

‘She has spent her life serving her community’

Read more
Yesterday, 16:30
Seagull-proof rubbish bags are to be introduced.

The amount of rubbish being dropped in a Sidmouth road has dramatically increased since a number of bins were removed, according to a shop owner.

Read more
Yesterday, 14:49
Barnstaple Post Office in Boutport Street could be moving.

The Post Office is launching a consultation tomorrow (Wednesday) to close its Boutport Street branch and relocate to High Street shop.

Read more
Yesterday, 14:42

A drink driver from Exmouth who killed a 20-year-old man has escaped with a fine; the court said his driving ‘had not caused the accident’.

Read more
Yesterday, 14:00
North Devon District Hospital in Barnstaple. Picture: Andy Keeble

Letter to Jeremy Hunt calls for assurances as petitions urging the protection of services attract thousands of signatures.

Read more

Local Weather

Partly Cloudy

Partly Cloudy

max temp: 11°C

min temp: 6°C

Most Read News

Great British Life

Great British Life

Place a family notice

Family Notices 24

Newsletter Sign Up

Find a job in Devon



Local business directory

Devon's trusted business finder

FFind planning applications