Research performed and legal opinion received by Planning department with training and operating protocols

The request was partially successful.

Dear Carmarthenshire Council,

In relation to Planning Application E/28634 (27.1m wind turbine at Pant Y Bryn) and concerns not responded to by the Council following the Planning Hearing of 14 January 2014, on 6 March 2014 12:06:31 GMT a Senior Development Manager at Carmarthenshire County Council wrote:

" Further to my earlier message, I would inform you that having now sought a legal opinion, contacted National Power and done our own other research with no concerns having come to light, the Council as the local planning authority is satisfied that as far as reasonableness is concerned we have complied with our duty in relation to the issue of the siting of the proposed turbine in relation to the power cables.

The permission has therefore been issued today. "

Companies House records confirm that National Power became defunct in 2001. I would like details of the medium used by the Council to contact National Power between 14 January 2014 and 6 March 2014, and a copy of information that the Council received.

I would like to know how much Council time was spent performing its "own other research" and the professional qualifications and accreditation of the person(s) that undertook it. Please identify the dates on which this research occurred.

I would also like a copy of this research. Please include all reference sources and details of the methodology used to conduct such research with reasonable care and skill, eg did an Officer drive to the application site, record the telephone number of the electricity distributor from one of the many 10.5m poles that carry the 11KV in the 1.4km line, and subsequently call the distributor's helpline to confirm that their recommended guideline is a simple lateral separation of one and half times a structure's height between its nearest point to the high voltage conductor's exclusion zone. If research referenced standard Electrical Engineering texts then please supply the ISBN number of the publication/journal or unique identifier for conference proceedings.

I would like a copy of the legal opinion received by the Council, along with a copy of the practitioner's certificate of Professional Indemnity, in place at the time the advice was given.

I would like a copy of updated maps, plan-views and calculations the Council used after 14 January 2014 to determine that the ~18m between the blades of the 27.1m tall structure and the exclusion zone of the 11KV conductors was of no concern.

How many training days were assigned for staff in the Planning department each year from 2012 to present, and how many days have been completed? For statistical purposes please identify those days which can be ascribed to induction/orientation/new-hire etc. and those days forming a programme of continuing professional development or "staying current".

I would like a copy of the information that the Council now uses to train and help its Officers and Inspectors identify high voltage cables, poles and carriers in the field. There is no need to provide a copy if this is the "Look Up, Look Out" publication from Western Power Distribution (or similar variants from distribution companies that operate outside of "South Wales, Midlands and the South-West", or the Health & Safety Executive's version) that is freely available online.

I would like a copy of the protocol now used by the Planning department to compare maps (OS & plan-view) submitted by applicants against the land-forms and man-made features that Officers observe when they visit a site, such as when they fix the Planning Application to 10.5m poles bearing conductors carrying 11,000 Volts. Please confirm the date that this new protocol was put in place.

Please provide a copy of the procedure used to correct inaccurate information recorded in the Minutes of the Planning Committee, after subsequent meetings of the Planning Committee have signed previous Minutes as being true and accurate.

Yours faithfully,
Daniel Morris CEng MIET

FOIA, Carmarthenshire Council

Dear Mr Morris,

Thank you for your request for information, which was received on 15th February, 2015 and is being dealt with under the Freedom of Information Act 2000/Environmental Information Regulations 2004.

We are therefore required to provide you with a response within 20 working days, which will be on or before 13th March, 2015

If we require any clarification or further details, we will contact you as soon as possible - if this is the case, then the timescale for response specified above may be subject to change.

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

Yours sincerely

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

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

Mewnol/Internal: 4127
Allanol/External: 01267 224127

show quoted sections

FOIA, Carmarthenshire Council

Dear Mr Morris,
 
I refer to your request for information, which was received on 15^th
February, 2015 and has been dealt with under the Environmental Information
Regulations 2004 (EIR).
 
I will respond to your request in the order it was presented using
numbered points as headings for ease of reference.
 
1. Companies House records confirm that National Power became defunct in
2001. I would like details of the medium used by the Council to contact
National Power between 14 January 2014 and 6 March 2014, and a copy of
information that the Council received.
 
Although the Planning Committee at its meeting on 14^th January, 2014
resolved to grant planning permission (without reference to any further
enquiry or information being necessary) having regard to the concerns
expressed, our Senior Development Management Officer (SDMO) contacted our
Senior Solicitor on the same day to establish whether the Council has
fulfilled its obligation with regard to risk and whether the decision
notice could be released.
 
The advice received as that the SDMO should contact National Grid.  The
Council’s Planning Services contacted National Grid by email on 28^th
January, 2014 in order to confirm that the Council had indeed fulfilled
its obligations.
 
No reply was received and the decision notice was dispatched on 7^th
March, 2014.
 
We acknowledge that an email sent to you incorrectly refers to ‘National
Power' – as above, the consultation was in fact with National Grid.
 
2. I would like to know how much Council time was spent performing its
"own other research" and the professional qualifications and accreditation
of the person(s) that undertook it.
 
The Council does not hold a record of the length of time undertaken on
this work.
 
By way of assistance, I would comment that the research comprised
discussion between a SDMO (Member of the Royal Town Planning Institute)
and colleagues within the Council in order to establish whether they had
previously encountered the issue of the Council a having an obligation
with regard to a risk assessment.  They had not.
 
3. Please identify the dates on which this research occurred.
 
This has not been recorded and the information is not held – please refer
to the response provided to question 2, above.
 
4. I would also like a copy of this research. Please include all reference
sources and details of the methodology used to conduct such research with
reasonable care and skill, eg did an Officer drive to the application
site, record the telephone number of the electricity distributor from one
of the many 10.5m poles that carry the 11KV in the 1.4km line, and
subsequently call the distributor's helpline to confirm that their
recommended guideline is a simple lateral separation of one and half times
a structure's height between its nearest point to the high voltage
conductor's exclusion zone.
 
The Council does not hold recorded information regarding these discussions
and with regard to methodology, please refer to the response provided to
question 2 above.
 
5. If research referenced standard Electrical Engineering texts then
please supply the ISBN number of the publication/journal or unique
identifier for conference proceedings.
 
As above, this question is not applicable.
 
6. I would like a copy of the legal opinion received by the Council, along
with a copy of the practitioner's certificate of Professional Indemnity,
in place at the time the advice was given.
 
Please refer to the response provided to question 1 above.
 
There is one overall, corporate Professional Indemnity insurance policy,
which is required where a legal professional would be advising an external
client. Internal advice is covered by the Council’s Combined Liability
Policy (under the Officials’ Indemnity Section).
 
7. I would like a copy of updated maps, plan-views and calculations the
Council used after 14 January 2014 to determine that the ~18m between the
blades of the 27.1m tall structure and the exclusion zone of the 11KV
conductors was of no concern.
 
The maps used in the consideration of the application were those submitted
as part of the planning application.  These maps form part of the case
file and can therefore be inspected by appointment at the area planning
office.  As such, should you wish to view this information, please email
[1][email address] to make the necessary arrangements.
 
With regard to the maps, the Council is not obliged to provide copies of
them in response to such requests, by virtue of Regulation 6 (1) of the
EIR, which 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.”
 
In this case, you have a separate right under Planning legislation to
inspect the documents held on planning application files at our area
offices. The provisions of Regulation 6 are therefore engaged here. 
 
In reaching this view, I have referred to a decision taken by the
Information Commissioner’s Office (reference FS50382240, 8th August, 2011)
in relation to a request for information kept as part of the Definitive
Map and Statement of Public Rights of Way held by Powys County Council,
which was also available for inspection.  The Commissioner had this to
say:
 
“The Commissioner considers that by requesting the information in the form
of a copy the complainant had requested the information in a specific form
and format. The authority’s alternative provision of the information at
its offices is publicly available and easily accessible to the applicant;
[my emphasis]”
 
“The Commissioner also notes that the Council has included the Definitive
Map in its publication scheme, along with information on how to view it.
The Commissioner’s general view is that information will be reasonably
accessible to the applicant, irrespective of their individual
circumstances, if it is included in the public authority’s publication
scheme. [my emphasis]” 
 
Planning applications are included in our Publication Scheme under “Lists
and Registers”.
 
8. How many training days were assigned for staff in the Planning
department each year from 2012 to present, and how many days have been
completed? For statistical purposes please identify those days which can
be ascribed to induction/orientation/new-hire etc. and those days forming
a programme of continuing professional development or "staying current".
 
Specific training days are not ‘assigned’ to staff.
 
Training away days were held as follows:
 
2012 – 1 day
2013 – 2 days
2014 – 1 day
 
In addition, 20% of officer time within Planning Services is allocated to
training and staying current.
 
Informal mentoring has also taken place (we hold no records in this
regard) and twice weekly team meetings were held throughout the years in
question.
 
New officers receive a half day corporate induction.
 
9. I would like a copy of the information that the Council now uses to
train and help its Officers and Inspectors identify high voltage cables,
poles and carriers in the field. There is no need to provide a copy if
this is the "Look Up, Look Out" publication from Western Power
Distribution (or similar variants from distribution companies that operate
outside of "South Wales, Midlands and the South-West", or the Health &
Safety Executive's version) that is freely available online.
 
We do not hold any relevant information in this regard.
 
10. I would like a copy of the protocol now used by the Planning
department to compare maps (OS & plan-view) submitted by applicants
against the land-forms and man-made features that Officers observe when
they visit a site, such as when they fix the Planning Application to 10.5m
poles bearing conductors carrying 11,000 Volts. Please confirm the date
that this new protocol was put in place.
 
The Council’s Planning Services does not hold such a protocol.
 
11. Please provide a copy of the procedure used to correct inaccurate
information recorded in the Minutes of the Planning Committee, after
subsequent meetings of the Planning Committee have signed previous Minutes
as being true and accurate.
 
The Council’s procedure with regard to minutes is set out in its
Constitution, which can be accessed on our website as follows:
 
[2]http://www.carmarthenshire.gov.uk/Englis...
 
There is no procedure to amend minutes that have previously been signed as
a correct record of proceedings.  We do not hold this particular
information, therefore.
 
Your right of appeal
 
I appreciate that this response will come as a disappointment to you, and
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: [3][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: [4]www.ico.gov.uk
 
There is no charge for making an appeal.
 
If I can be of any further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact
me.
 
Yours sincerely
John Tillman
Swyddog Gwybodaeth a Diogelu Data
Adran y Prif Weithredwr
Cyngor Sir Gaerfyrddin
Information & Data Protection Officer
Chief Executive's Department
Carmarthenshire County Council
Mewnol/Internal: 4127
Allanol/External: 01267 224127
 
 
 
 

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