I called in at the Planning Committee meeting this afternoon at County Hall to see how Mr Humphreys' application to (retrospectively) remove and dispose of the mill machinery at Felin Wen went. It was refused. I am not saying that the committee were unduly influenced in any way but an approval today would have blown the plannning officers case out of the window. One Councillor did attempt to suggest a site visit - this was immediately rejected by the planning officer; 'there's nothing to see' (and we know what can happen after a site visit). They preferred to go on a trip to Pendine instead, can't blame them, probably more agreeable than Llandybie, especially if it's a nice sunny day.
Another Councillor made an interesting point, he established that the machinery had in fact gone so why was Mr Humphreys being forced to put back what didn't exist? The Conservation officer looked a little uncomfortable and mumbled something about 'restoration' - one wonders whether the Enforcement Notice (Mr Humphreys has a Public Inquiry over this machinery in September) will hold up under scrutiny of cross examination. It is worth noting that, much to the Council's chagrin, the Planning Inspectorate have agreed to Mr Humphreys' request that the appeal be changed from an Informal Hearing to a Public Inquiry 'when it became apparent that cross examination may need to take place, as evidence put forward at an informal hearing cannot be subject to cross examination'. Of course, the Planning Inspector at the previous Inquiry decided that restoration and replacement was wholly inappropriate. The Council solicitor, who had quite a lot to say for himself during this application, tried to reassure the Councillor that they had to make sure Enforcement Notices were correct or the planning authority would have 'egg on it's face' (don't tempt me) However, I am not certain that anyone else is entirely convinced of the Council's case.
The whole matter is odd to say the least, Mr Humphreys has been fined, he now has a criminal record (only for part of the charge, and only after the Council blew a fortune appealing the magistrates decision to clear him), the Council has spent in the region of £100,000 and rising. All Mr Humphreys wanted to do was try and sympathetically restore this little building to be of some use.
One also wonders why the council, who have (at the moment, anyway) special powers from Cadw to protect Carmarthenshire's heritage, left this listed mill to deteriorate beyond repair over so many years before Mr Humphreys even bought it.