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Committee's job is tough

By North Devon Journal  |  Posted: July 11, 2013

Comments (1)

AS leader of Torridge District Council, I would like to reply to the letter from Mike Lamprey ("No inkling of integrity", Journal, June 20).

This letter referred to an application for a wind turbine that was decided by the council's plans committee – a very important committee as it takes decisions that have a direct impact on people's lives.

But there are legal parameters within which the committee operates and a legal duty to take decisions in accordance with the Local Plan and National Planning Policy Framework. Failure to do so means that the council is open to challenge through the courts.

In applications like this, the committee has to balance the benefits of renewable energy against "local issues" such as the impact on our landscape and local residents' lives.

At Torridge we've found that when the committee gives greater weight to those local issues and refuses a planning application, on appeal the Planning Inspectorate invariably does not adopt the same approach. Out of 14 appeals on wind turbine applications we have refused, 12 have been overturned and approved by the Planning Inspectorate.

The council has often been accused of not putting any effort into defending those appeals, but I can assure you that many thousands of pounds and man hours have been spent on this task.

As a result of this, we have made representations to the Prime Minister and to Eric Pickles urging the Government to give greater weight to more local issues and to give more support to less intrusive forms of renewable energy.

Until we are successful in changing the legislation and/or national policies under which the council must operate, the problem and concerns will persist.

I have total confidence in the integrity of the individual members of the committee, the officers that support them, and in the decision making processes of the committee.

Members are very aware of the public's feelings that can be generated by such developments, and carry out their difficult role professionally and impartially.

It is very easy to accuse the council of lacking integrity or even being corrupt when a decision taken is not popular; but I hope the public will share my confidence in the planning process now that they are aware of the constraints under which the plans committee has to operate, even though they may not be happy with the end decision

Philip Collins,

Leader, Torridge District Council.

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  • Tacitus  |  July 11 2013, 2:15PM

    Judging from Mr Collins' comments, it doesn't sound as if he has actually attended a meeting of Torridge's planning committee. I've sat in on number of meetings, and frankly, they're a shambles. Certain members clearly have their own agenda and are not going to let the little matter of planning legislation, appeal decisions, local plan and what have you, get in the way of how they will approach applications. Torridge currently has a very poor quality of councillor.

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