Planning compliance with National Grid defined safety protocols

Response to this request is delayed. By law, Carmarthenshire Council should normally have responded promptly and by (details)

Dear Carmarthenshire Council,

On 24 March 2015 National Grid concluded a formal investigation into the serious safety concerns raised in regard to the proposed 27.1m tall wind turbine which was shown on the plans to be about 18m from overhead conductors bearing 11,000V (E/28634 PantYBryn Wind Turbine).

You may recall (from other FOI) that Carmarthenshire County Council's planning department claimed that they had not received a response when they tried to contact National Grid (first mis-described as National Power). More recently the department let slip that they had in fact received an email redirecting their enquiry, a copy of which was finally disclosed under compulsion of the Freedom of Information Act.

Members of National Grid's Asset Protection Team were appalled at the ignorance shown by Carmarthenshire County Council's planning department, the risk to public/community safety, and very concerned with the threat posed to their colleagues in the field who may have to had deal with the aftermath of an avoidable accident.

Carmarthenshire County Council's planning department has described National Grid as a "statutory undertaker". As such, working in a potentially dangerous and highly regulated field, the planners should not be surprised to find National Grid working to strict specifications and defined protocols. In addition to providing a copy of the Energy Networks Association's "Separation between Wind Turbines and Overhead Lines/ENA Engineering Recommendation LXX" (which came into effect from 1st April 2012), they outlined the following formal protocol:-

a) Once every year, National Grid writes to each Local Planning Authority to confirm that the registered contact details are correct.
b) Once every year, National Grid provides each LPA the locations of its assets in the form of "Shape Files" suitable to be imported into each LPA's GIS system.
c) Once every five years, National Grid physically visits each LPA in the country to ensure that the registered details are correct, remind the LPA of its duties in respect of National Grid operated infrastructure, offer advice, answer questions etc.
d) National Grid expects that every planning application is examined by the LPA with the most recent version of its GIS Shape Files.
e) National Grid expects that every planning application submitted is validated by a competent person visiting a proposed site, noting that the maps, plans and site conditions match. This includes looking out for obvious signs of overground infrastructure in the vicinity, such as 10.5m wooden poles/pylons bearing conductors in a 1.2km line etc.

With reference to the above protocol described by National Grid's Asset Protection Team, please can you provide all information that the Council holds for the period between 1 January 1998 and 13 March 2015 in respect of:

1) Dates and copies of correspondence exchanged between Carmarthenshire County Council and National Grid.
2) The dates that GIS Shape Files were received from National Grid, the file size and SHA256 message digest for each, and the date applied to the LPA's GIS platforms used in Crescent Road (it may be easiest if you just output the logs from revision control system for these elements into a human readable form for the latter limb).
3) Dates, venues and names of attendees for meetings held between the LPA and National Grid.
4) The method of working prescribed by the LPA to safely compare applications received with electronic/desktop records.
5) The name, job title and professional accreditation of each employee that Carmarthenshire County Council considered to a be defined as a competent person for the purpose of this role.

Additionally, please can you confirm if Carmarthenshire County Council now holds a copy of the ENA's "Separation between Wind Turbines and Overhead Lines/ENA Engineering Recommendation LXX" document. National Grid is a transmission licensee as defined by the 1989 Electricity Act, this document is the national guideline. If so, on which date did the Planners read sections 4 & 4.1 (Separation Between Wind Turbines and Overhead Power Lines & Toppling Distance) and Annex B (Diagrammatic representation of falling clearances)?

Yours faithfully,

D Morris CEng MIET

FOIA, Carmarthenshire Council

Dear Mr Morris,

Thank you for your request for information, which was received on 28th April, 2017 and is being dealt with under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

We are therefore required to provide a response within 20 working days, which will be on or before 30th May, 2017.

If we require clarification we will also contact you as soon as we can – please note that the timescale for response specified above may be subject to change if this is the case.

In the meantime, please do not hesitate to contact me should you have any queries, remembering to quote the reference number above in any communications.

Yours sincerely

John Tillman
Swyddog Gwybodaeth a Diogelu Data
Tîm Llywodraethu Gwybodaeth a Chwynion
Adran y Prif Weithredwr
Cyngor Sir Gaerfyrddin

Information & Data Protection Officer
Information Governance & Complaints Team
Chief Executive's Department
Carmarthenshire County Council

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Dear Mr. Tillman,

I am disappointed that Carmarthenshire County Council has chosen not to comply with its legal obligations defined in the Freedom of Information Act 2000/Environmental Information Regulations 2004.

I had expected that you would have supplied the information that I requested some time ago - the law requires that you provide the information promptly and in any event no later than 20 days after the request.

A complaint file has been opened with the Information Commissioner's Office.

When do you expect that you will comply with the Act/Regulations and supply the information requested?

Yours sincerely,

D Morris CEng MIET

FOIA, Carmarthenshire Council

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Morris,

I refer to your request for information, which was received on 28th April, 2017 and has been dealt with under the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (EIR). Please accept my apologies for the delay in providing this response.

The specific information you requested was as follows:

"With reference to the above protocol described by National Grid's Asset Protection Team, please can you provide all information that the Council holds for the period between 1 January 1998 and 13 March 2015 in respect of:

1) Dates and copies of correspondence exchanged between Carmarthenshire County Council and National Grid."

Please see attached the email sent by National Grid in February 2017.

We do not hold copies or dates of any other annual emails from/between the National Grid and the Council as these would have been deleted once dealt with.

Please also note that the shape files from National Grid only provide details of the major transmission routes and tower points e.g. "Pembroke-Swansea, Pembroke-Walham" and do not provide data on local overhead lines, pylons etc.

"2) The dates that GIS Shape Files were received from National Grid, the file size and SHA256 message digest for each, and the date applied to the LPA's GIS platforms used in Crescent Road (it may be easiest if you just output the logs from revision control system for these elements into a human readable form for the latter limb)."

The GIS Shape Files are available on National Grid's website for downloading - the link is provided below, and the files sizes can be viewed on their website:

http://www2.nationalgrid.com/uk/services...

Please note that the most recent updates (May 2017) did not affect Carmarthenshire.

The provisions of Regulation 6 (1) of the EIR are engaged with regard to this part of your request. This regulation states that:

“6. – (1) Where an applicant requests that the information be made available in a particular form or format, a public authority shall make it available unless –

(a) it is reasonable for it to make the information available in another form or format; or
(b) the information is already publicly available and easily accessible to the applicant in another form or format.”

"3) Dates, venues and names of attendees for meetings held between the LPA and National Grid."

I am advised that we hold no records of such meetings.

"4) The method of working prescribed by the LPA to safely compare applications received with electronic/desktop records.

5) The name, job title and professional accreditation of each employee that Carmarthenshire County Council considered to a be defined as a competent person for the purpose of this role."

I regret that it is not sufficiently clear what information you require in respect of questions 4 and 5. I would therefore be grateful if you could attempt to clarify these.

With regard to question 2, above, as I am effectively refusing to provide the information you have requested on the basis set out above, please find below your rights of appeal.

If you are unhappy with this decision or way in which your request has been handled, you can request a review by writing to:

The Head of Administration & Law
Carmarthenshire County Council
County Hall
Carmarthen
SA31 1JP

Email: [email address]

If you remain unhappy with the handling of your request or complaint, you have a right to appeal to the Information Commissioner at:

The Information Commissioner’s Office
Wycliffe House
Water Lane
Wilmslow
Cheshire
SK9 5AF

Telephone: 0303 123 1113
Website: www.ico.gov.uk

There is no charge for making an appeal.

Yours sincerely

John Tillman
Swyddog Gwybodaeth a Diogelu Data
Tîm Llywodraethu Gwybodaeth a Chwynion
Adran y Prif Weithredwr
Cyngor Sir Gaerfyrddin

Information & Data Protection Officer
Information Governance & Complaints Team
Chief Executive's Department
Carmarthenshire County Council

Mewnol/Internal: 4127
Allanol/External: 01267 224127

Dear Mr. Tillman,

You wrote to me on 14 June 2017 requesting clarification and further details to respond fully to the request I had made under the FOIA/EIR. I am mindful of the effort needed at times to respond properly. As such, with the appalling loss of life and terrible injuries that unfolded at the Grenfell Tower that day and in the weeks following, I felt it would be insensitive and improper for Council resources to be diverted at that time.

The concerns I raised are in relation to serious public safety protocols. A public commitment was made by a County Councillor (later identified as Emlyn Dole) in the Council Chamber that safety issues would be attended to properly, whilst an image of a line of 10.5m poles bearing 11,000V that the planning department had overlooked was projected onto the wall behind/above the Head of Planning. I would be grateful if you would now continue to address the request in a timely manner. For clarity I have prefaced your response with CCC: below and responded with the clarifications you were seeking inline.

CCC: Dear Mr Morris,
CCC:
CCC: I refer to your request for information, which was received on
CCC: 28th April, 2017 and has been dealt with under the Environmental
CCC: Information Regulations 2004 (EIR). Please accept my apologies
CCC: for the delay in providing this response.
CCC:
CCC: The specific information you requested was as follows:
CCC:
CCC: "With reference to the above protocol described by National
CCC: Grid's Asset Protection Team, please can you provide all
CCC: information that the Council holds for the period between 1
CCC: January 1998 and 13 March 2015 in respect of:
CCC:
CCC: 1) Dates and copies of correspondence exchanged between
CCC: Carmarthenshire County Council and National Grid."
CCC:
CCC: Please see attached the email sent by National Grid in February
CCC: 2017.
CCC:
CCC: We do not hold copies or dates of any other annual emails
CCC: from/between the National Grid and the Council as these would
CCC: have been deleted once dealt with.

Could you please explain/provide the information held by the Council following processing ("dealt with")? For example the Planning department ought to keep a file of essential contacts for consultation up to date.

CCC:
CCC: Please also note that the shape files from National Grid only
CCC: provide details of the major transmission routes and tower
CCC: points e.g. "Pembroke-Swansea, Pembroke-Walham" and do not
CCC: provide data on local overhead lines, pylons etc.

I fully expect that National Grid's shape files will only hold details of assets it is responsible for, which include underground high pressure gas pipelines (where a breach is likely to take out a hamlet, rather than just killing/maiming a few individuals through contact with an overhead electrical conductor).

We are at this time exclusively dealing with National Grid's defined protocol (referenced a-e in the original request) provided in as part of their formal investigation which was initiated after Mr Graham Noakes (Senior Development Manager) under the direction of Mr Steven P Murphy (Legal Adviser/Senior Solicitor) and in consultation with Mr Richard Jones (Development Management Officer) contacted National Grid, ignored the response and said there was no response. The Council's later admission that there was a reply (in response to a formal complaint) led to an automated reply from National Grid being disclosed under compulsion of the FOIA/EIR.

CCC:
CCC: "2) The dates that GIS Shape Files were received from National
CCC: Grid, the file size and SHA256 message digest for each, and the
CCC: date applied to the LPA's GIS platforms used in Crescent Road
CCC: (it may be easiest if you just output the logs from revision
CCC: control system for these elements into a human readable form for
CCC: the latter limb)."
CCC:
CCC: The GIS Shape Files are available on National Grid's website for
CCC: downloading - the link is provided below, and the files sizes
CCC: can be viewed on their website:
CCC:
CCC: http://www2.nationalgrid.com/uk/services...
CCC:
CCC: Please note that the most recent updates (May 2017) did not
CCC: affect Carmarthenshire.
CCC:
CCC: The provisions of Regulation 6 (1) of the EIR are engaged with
CCC: regard to this part of your request. This regulation states
CCC: that:
CCC:
CCC: “6. – (1) Where an applicant requests that the information be
CCC: made available in a particular form or format, a public
CCC: authority shall make it available unless –
CCC:
CCC: (a) it is reasonable for it to make the information available in
CCC: another form or format; or (b) the information is already
CCC: publicly available and easily accessible to the applicant in
CCC: another form or format.”

I understand that the GIS shape files are available through other means, such as via my professional subscription and library services at the Faraday Centre/Savoy Place. However, my request is focused on the processing and management of the shape files by Carmarthenshire County Council. Again, referring to elements (b) & (d) of National Grid's protocol within the timeframe stipulated, when did the Council apply the images to its internal systems and how were the integrity of the updates validated?

CCC: Thank you for the detailed drawing and summary of costs. I did ask for a breakdown of the costs incurred, rather than a high-level summary. Please can you provide the breakdown.
CCC: "3) Dates, venues and names of attendees for meetings held
CCC: between the LPA and National Grid."
CCC:
CCC: I am advised that we hold no records of such meetings.

Are you sure? Are there no electronic diary records of meetings booked? Are there no "visitor book" records confirming the arrival and departure of visitors from National Grid? (think fire safety and the Council's duty to account for all persons onsite at Council buildings). Are there no records kept for departmental reporting of such interactions? Please check. If meetings were held offsite then there'd be private mileage reimbursement records, or logs from use of pool cars.

CCC:
CCC: "4) The method of working prescribed by the LPA to safely
CCC: compare applications received with electronic/desktop records.
CCC:
CCC: 5) The name, job title and professional accreditation of each
CCC: employee that Carmarthenshire County Council considered to a be
CCC: defined as a competent person for the purpose of this role."
CCC:
CCC: I regret that it is not sufficiently clear what information you
CCC: require in respect of questions 4 and 5. I would therefore be
CCC: grateful if you could attempt to clarify these.
CCC:

Elements (4) & (5) correspond to items (d) and (e) of National Grid's protocol. I would expect that any professional organisation has a prescribed method of working to ensure that correct processes are followed, decisions can be reliably replicated and that they have been determined in an impartial manner without undue bias. National Grid's investigation showed that they expect *all* local planning authorities to adhere to a strict method of working, not relying on dowsing rods, intuition or just "winging it" to fathom out where buried or overhead pipes and conductors might be.

So, for item (4) how is this done in Carmarthenshire? What records does the Council hold? This might take the form of a "job manual", checklists, a prescribed method, onboarding/new-starter training material etc. In the case of the Crescent Road Planning team, it was noted that the "Development Management part of the Planning Service was the subject of a nine month review from April 2014 to January 2015 that examined every aspect of its function" - as such there may have been additional material produced - flow-diagrams, state-charts, presentations, reports etc. The Council may have prepared materials as part of a certification or accreditation process, such as a quality management standard like ISO 9001, or via a method for continuous process improvement such as Six Sigma. Time and Motion studies might have captured elements of the Crescent Road Planning team's craft, an exchange programme with better performing LPAs might have contributed a roadmap to upskill the team. There must be something recorded about how the process should work, please provide.

For item (5), there might be physical limitations imposed by the nature of the task which may exclude someone with a visual impairment from the competent person role (eg needing to identify 10.5m poles on a site visit before nailing a planning notice to it, colour blindness impeding the identification of landforms from a map), the role might require a qualification in geography or for the appointee to hold a certificate of competence following a prescribed method of training etc. Competence and seniority/qualification are not interchangeable terms - thinking back to my early career, there were several million receivers able to decrypt movies and securely purchase via bank cards which utilised hardware that I played a key part in designing and certifying (to ISO7816, GIE Carte Bancaire & EuroCard MasterCard Visa standards) along with software drivers that underpinned those operations; however I was not considered a competent person for the purposes of signing off design changes to the power supply circuitry (and IET Rules of Conduct forbid members from undertaking professional tasks and responsibilities that they are "not reasonably competent to discharge"). I hope that helps clarify the information sought, please disclose what the Council defines as a competent person for this role and provide the corresponding details of employees suitably qualified in the identified time period.

The Council completely failed to address the latter part of my request for information, repeated here:

DM: Additionally, please can you confirm if Carmarthenshire
DM: County Council now holds a copy of the ENA's "Separation
DM: between Wind Turbines and Overhead Lines/ENA Engineering
DM: Recommendation LXX" document. National Grid is a
DM: transmission licensee as defined by the 1989 Electricity
DM: Act, this document is the national guideline. If so, on
DM: which date did the Planners read sections 4 & 4.1
DM: (Separation Between Wind Turbines and Overhead Power Lines &
DM: Toppling Distance) and Annex B (Diagrammatic representation
DM: of falling clearances)?

In previous disclosures the Planning Team stated that they had accepted the view of a commercial agent, who had a vested financial interest in the development being approved, as "national guidelines". The Council has not shown that the commercial agent had any formal qualifications which would qualify his views as little more than "hearsay". Per the original request, please can you confirm if the Council now holds a copy of the national guideline document identified above and the date when the Planners read the sections 4 & 4.1 (Separation Between Wind Turbines and Overhead Power Lines & Toppling Distance) and looked at the picture in Annex B (Diagrammatic representation of falling clearances)?

Yours faithfully,

D Morris CEng MIET

Dear FOIA,

I wrote to you on 1 December 2017 in response to your request for clarification, but have not heard anything since. I had expected the Council to provide the information by 4th January 2018 (at the latest).

Please can you conduct an internal review of this case?

You can find the request, the Council's limited disclosure and my clarification here:

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/p...

Yours sincerely,

D Morris CEng MIET

Robert Edgecombe, Carmarthenshire Council

Dear Mr Morris,

 

I write further to your email of the 8^th January in which you requested
an internal review in this matter.

 

Your request has been passed to me to deal with.

 

I will aim to respond substantively to your request within 20 working days
that is by the 7^th February.

 

I would however be grateful if you could confirm that your review request
relates only to questions 4 and 5 in your original request of the 28^th
April 2017 namely;

(a)The method of working prescribed by the LPA to safely compare
applications received with electronic/desktop records

(b) The name, job title and professional accreditation of each employee
that Carmarthenshire County Council consider to be defined as a competent
person for the purpose of this role.

 

I look forward to hearing from you

 

Yours sincerely

Robert Edgecombe

Dear Robert Edgecombe,

Please review the whole of the request. Per the clarifications I provided on 1 December 2017, none of the subpoints 1-5 (which corresponded to National Grid's safety protocol a-e) have been answered properly, neither had the issue of national guidelines.

Yours sincerely,

Daniel Morris

Robert Edgecombe, Carmarthenshire Council

Dear Mr Morris,

Thank you for your clarification. I will proceed accordingly

Yours sincerely
Robert Edgecombe

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