Review of information now claimed to be held by Planning department that didn't previously exist

The request was partially successful.

Dear Carmarthenshire Council,

On 15th February 2015 I wrote to ask for specific information relating 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. The request and the Council's response is available here:

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

A contradictory account has now been disclosed by means of a response to a formal complaint (regarding the mis-use of delegated powers and inaccurate information advertised in leading to the determination of a retrospective application following enforcement action by the Council), as follows:

"3. When heard, I showed that Mr Francis failed to identify the 11,000V overhead cables which are in close proximity to the site, even when he had nailed previous planning applications into one of the 10.6m (35ft) poles! A stupid mistake compounded by the planning team writing to the wrong company after the event (despite the brightly coloured logos, names, warnings and phone numbers being securely fixed to the poles in the ~1km run).

You may recall that I was the officer who presented a summary of the application at the Planning Committee meeting on 14th January 2014. Having duly considered the matter including the representations made by yourself and another local resident, the Committee resolved that planning permission should be granted.

Although the decision notice could then have been immediately issued, I considered it prudent to contact our legal department to seek an opinion with regard to your comment in your presentation that you considered that there was a legal obligation upon the Council to undertake a risk assessment in respect of the proposed turbine falling and potentially affecting the overhead power lines that run along the edge of the field, requesting confirmation that we may release the decision notice in accordance with the Committee resolution.

The advice received was to contact National Grid, in addition to which I also contacted a colleague who has significant experience of wind farm development and having conveyed the delay to the applicant's agent received his confirmation that the proposed siting of the turbine was in accordance with Western Power guidelines.

In noting your assertion with regard to the 'wrong company', although only an acknowledgment was received from National Grid, it is reasonable to assume that as a responsible statutory undertaker they would have replied with any concerns; re-directed my correspondence to another, relevant authority; or confirmed that the matter was not for them.

In the absence of a substantive reply or any other new information over a period of some six weeks, it was concluded in conjunction with the legal advisor that the Council had take all reasonable steps in the matter, that did not necessarily require any action to be taken, and that the decision notice should be issued."

In the latter account, Mr Graham Noakes (a Senior Development Management Officer) states that Carmarthenshire County Council did receive information from National Grid (paragraph 3 following point 3); Mr Tillman stated that no such information existed, despite it being the focus of the request (Point 1, paragraph 3 of 12th March 2015). Only one of these accounts can be true.

Please can you perform an internal review of this portion of the original EIR request, noting that by law Carmarthenshire County Council was required to provide the information requested promptly, and in any event disclose it no later than 13th March 2015.

Co-joining the two accounts, and squinting a little, it appears that we have three participants at the Council involved in the determination between 14th January 2014 and 7th March 2014. Please can you provide the name, job title and professional accreditation of both the legal advisor and the colleague with "significant experience of wind farm development". (You may consider this as a new request for information).

I would be grateful if you could clarify the ownership of the actions described in paragraph 3 of the new account; counsel inferred that it was Entrust Professional Services Ltd who claimed to have relayed Western Power Distribution's confirmation, whereas I had first read that it was the colleague with "significant experience". Neither interpretation makes any sense as why would the Planning department ask one organisation and receive a nod from another? And why would the Planning department possibly trust the word of an agent that missed the 35ft poles/11KV off its scale plans of the site or claimed over two years to "lack the time" to contact MOD/CAA/NATS? (In January 2014 the Planning department was fully aware of the simplicity and speediness of the process which had completed in a matter of days, although they seem to have overlooked its importance).

With reference to "received his confirmation" in the new account (paragraph 3), please can you provide a copy of this confirmation? I would have expected that this would have been captured by my original EIR request, save for its omission from the contemporaneously described course of events. I am sure your team will be familiar with the ICO's guidance in supplying relevant information even if a request doesn't precisely describe it.

Yours faithfully,
D Morris

Robert Edgecombe, Carmarthenshire Council

Dear Mr Morris,

Your email of the 23rd December below has been passed to me to consider that part which relates to a request for an internal review of a FOI/EIR response provided to you by the Council in 2015.

Given the lapse of time since the original response was provided, I am declining to conduct an internal review. Regulation 11 of the Environmental Information Regulations (EIR) provides that such requests should be made within 40 working days of the date upon which you believed that the Council had failed to comply with the regulations in relation to your request. In my view that time period would have started upon receipt by you of our original refusal.

There is no legal requirement to conduct an internal review under the Freedom of Information Act, although ordinarily this authority does do so on a voluntary basis. However in light of the lapse of time referred to above I again decline to conduct a voluntary review under FOIA as well.

Yours sincerely
Robert Edgecombe

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FOIA, Carmarthenshire Council

Dear Mr Morris,

 

I refer to your request for information, which was received on 23^rd
December, 2016 and has been dealt with under the Environmental Information
Act 2004.

 

I will respond to your request in the order it was presented using
numbered points as headings for ease of reference.

 

1. “….it appears that we have three participants at the Council involved
in the determination between 14th January 2014 and 7th March 2014. Please
can you provide the name, job title and professional accreditation of both
the legal advisor and the colleague with "significant experience of wind
farm development". (You may consider this as a new request for
information).”

 

Legal advisor - Steven P Murphy, Senior Solicitor

Colleague - Richard Jones, Development Management Officer

 

2. “I would be grateful if you could clarify the ownership of the actions
described in paragraph 3 of the new account; counsel inferred that it was
Entrust Professional Services Ltd who claimed to have relayed Western
Power Distribution's confirmation, whereas I had first read that it was
the colleague with "significant experience".”

 

It is unclear what specific information you require here and I would be
grateful if you could provide further clarification.

 

3. “With reference to "received his confirmation" in the new account
(paragraph 3), please can you provide a copy of this confirmation?”

 

As 2., above.

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

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Dear Mr Tillman,

Thank you for your partial disclosure of the information I requested.

Re-using your numbered points:-

1. “….it appears that we have three participants at the Council involved
in the determination between 14th January 2014 and 7th March 2014. Please
can you provide the name, job title and professional accreditation of both
the legal advisor and the colleague with "significant experience of wind
farm development". (You may consider this as a new request for
information).”

Legal advisor - Steven P Murphy, Senior Solicitor

Colleague - Richard Jones, Development Management Officer

You seem to have missed the professional accreditation of both the legal advisor and colleague, please supply the information requested (or confirm if either/both does not hold any).

You asked for clarification in to assist in locating the information I requested in point 2. Mr Noakes
new account states:-

"The advice received was to contact National Grid, in addition to which I
also contacted a colleague who has significant experience of wind farm
development and having conveyed the delay to the applicant's agent
received his confirmation that the proposed siting of the turbine was in
accordance with Western Power guidelines."

Please can you identify who is the 'his' in 'received his confirmation'.

In point 3, with reference to 2 above, please provide the Council's record of the confirmation (email, letter, text, tweet etc).

Yours sincerely,

D Morris

FOIA, Carmarthenshire Council

Dear Mr Morris,

Thank you for your email. This is receiving attention and a further response will be provided as soon as possible.

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

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FOIA, Carmarthenshire Council

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Morris,

Thank you for your further email. I would respond as follows in order to conclude this request:

1. Professional accreditations:

a) Legal advisor - admitted to the roll of solicitors on 15th October 1990; registered with the Solicitors Regulation Authority; status - admitted solicitor in England and Wales, practicing certificate renewed in October 2016 for 12 months.

b) Development Management Officer - Royal Town Planning Institute

2. With regard to the second point raised, the term 'his confirmation' in the context of Mr Noakes’ letter refers to the applicant’s agent. During the period following the decision of the Planning Committee meeting on 14th January to grant planning permission (in which Mr Noakes sought further legal opinion in respect of your comment at the meeting), the agent submitted an email dated 28th January in which he advised that the proposed turbine ‘has been sited in line with National Guidance on wind turbines’. We acknowledge that whilst Mr Noakes’ letter refers to ‘confirmation that the proposed siting of the turbine was in accordance with Western Power guidelines’, the agent’s email refers to ‘National Guidance’.

A copy of the email received from the agent is enclosed. With regard to its content, I would clarify that the Western Power consultation referred to in the first sentence is a consultation carried out directly between the applicant/agent and Western Power. The Council has received no correspondence relating to that consultation. Similarly, with regard to the concluding reference that the agent would correspond further with the Council following receipt of a reply from Western Power, I can confirm that no further correspondence was received.

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

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Daniel Morris left an annotation ()

Internal review refused, but slightly re-framing the question and asking directly managed to weasel out the evidence, showing that authority failed to disclose properly in 2015, although it took 19 days :)
https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/c...

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