Friday 7 August 2015

Turbine news...and Daff gets away with it

Another contentious ruling over a Carmarthenshire wind turbine was issued by the High Court yesterday. A Judicial Review brought by a local resident failed to overturn the planning permission granted by Carmarthenshire Council for 67m turbine destined for the village of Pencader, Carmarthenshire.

The Western Mail has a report here. This was particularly interesting as a second, virtually identical application was submitted by the turbine company whilst a Judicial Review was still considering the first approval. I mentioned this last December.

Whether or not a wind turbine 'spoils the view' can be a subjective matter depending on your stance on renewable energy but the visual impact of this one was described by one of the council's own planning officers as 'very unpleasant' to people living nearby. The planning officers then went on to recommend approval.

The 'view' was very much on everyone's minds over the Dylan Thomas wind turbine approval which was successfully quashed via a Judicial Review, brought by opponents earlier this year. This turbine was planned for farmland across the estuary from Dylan Thomas' boatshed in Laugharne and caused something of an uproar.

Planning officers had recommended refusal but after employing some jiggery-pokery and his undoubted, er, charm, former Chair of the Council and member of the planning committee Cllr Daff Davies (Ind) convinced the committee that the turbine wouldn't be seen from the poet's shed. They refused to visit the Laugharne of the estuary to check out the view and promptly approved the turbine.

A complaint was also made that Daff 'drove dangerously to the site visit'. The mind boggles.

Council webcast watchers may recall Daff Davies memorably bumbling stint in the Chair..

Although Daff declared an interest at various points (see the link to the new-fangled interweb member's declarations in this earlier post) his long friendship and personal and financial connections to the farmer on whose land the turbine would sit, or rather his uncontrolled enthusiasm, led to several complaints being made to the Ombudsman and a vote of no confidence from his community council. His support most definitely had nothing to do with a passion for renewable energy.

However, the Ombudsman has cleared Cllr Davies from breaching the Code of Conduct at planning committee meetings where the application was considered, although he may have breached the code at the site visit; he failed to declare a personal interest, failed to withdraw from the meeting and made oral representations when having a prejudicial interest and also when the public were excluded.

Quite why the Ombudsman couldn't give a definite yes or no over the site visit is something of a mystery as he is the ultimate arbiter. Anyway, the Ombudsman also decided that no further action was necessary. Daff lives to promote farmer's wind turbines for another day.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Cllr Davies only declared a personal and pecuniary interest in the planning application for the wind turbine (W/29387). It wasn’t until 10 months later when his farmer friend was obliged to apply for retrospective planning permission (W/31560) that Cllr Davies thought fit to also declare a prejudicial interest. Any reasonable person would conclude that a prejudicial interest must also have existed at the time of the wind turbine application.

The Ombudsman’s Code of Conduct guide states “If you have a prejudicial interest in a matter being discussed at a meeting, you must, having declared your personal interest in the matter, leave the room (or any other venue in which the meeting is
being held including, for example, the location of a site meeting)”. Therefore, as you say, why the Ombudsman couldn't give a definite yes or no over the site visit is a mystery.

Maybe we should all just agree with the judge who conducted the judicial review “…I regard what Councillor Davies said as illogical and not capable of being rationally supported…”