Thursday, 4 December 2014

The Planning

Today's Planning Committee meeting was a bit of a strange affair, if you wish you can of course watch the archived webcast when it's uploaded. (Here it is;

One particular application had been put forward for a wind turbine at Wern, Pencader. This was an identical application (on exactly the same spot), aside for one small correction to an ecology report, to one passed by the planning committee two months ago, in September, following a site visit.

Although the earlier application had been passed, it was now under legal challenge in the form of a Judicial Review (JR) brought by local opponents to the turbine.

Leader of the Plaid group, Cllr Dole (who had voted against the turbine at the earlier application) clearly recognised that this was a very strange situation - if they passed this one, the developer could use either of the two permissions.

If the JR succeeded, the company could use the new permission, if it failed, they could use either. A second attempt at a JR after it had failed at the first attempt would be nigh on impossible to bring again.

He questioned this and also whether, given they'd all voted one way or the other a few weeks ago, they should all declare an interest. Under Section 25 of the Localism Act, decision makers must not approach a decision with a closed mind and in particular, there was clearly an issue of pre-determination.

The planning solicitor and the planning officer both said that as it was a 'new' application, it was perfectly fine for the committee to decide. They'd taken 'legal advice', apparently. This was, I add, the same solicitor who had told me, wrongly, that it was 'clearly written' in the Constitution that filming wasn't allowed...

Cllr Dole described the situation as absurd and that by the same logic as that being dished out by officers today, he was requesting another site visit, this was accepted in a vote. By doing this Cllr Dole was also sensibly deferring this curious matter to a later date.

I'm not passing comment on the merits or otherwise of wind turbines but the company have certainly gone for quite an extraordinary manoeuvre, and it is something of a questionable move by the planning department to validate this application and present it to the planning committee whilst it's twin brother was under Judicial Review.
I dare say it would all be described as a 'grey area'...

In another application, a proposal for 41 homes in Bynea, Llanelli was refused. The applicant was the council itself and had recommended, unsurprisingly, approval.

Aside from some of the statutory consultees, there were overwhelming local objections ranging from flooding, traffic and pollution issues to density. In fact, despite the highways department having 'no objections', it recommended that, er, £600,000 would need to be spent on the road when the development was completed....

The council were also accused of attempting a 'dash for cash' on the site, regardless of objections, as it was included in the Unitary Development Plan, but was being dropped from the Local Development Plan (LDP).
The LDP is due to be adopted (or not) at next week's full council.

There were lengthy arguments back and forth and as I said, it was refused. The committee now have a couple of weeks 'cooling-off' period. The application will then be brought back to committee to ratify their decision and who knows, maybe the planning authority will then launch a challenge against its own planning committee....

We also learned that the bell pressed by the chair to recall councillors, who had declared an interest in a previous application, back into the Chamber didn't work in the members lounge. So presumably, if necessary, and particularly at full council meetings, they could be quietly forgotten.... 

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