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'Wind farm planners made series of errors'

A damning report into the handling of a planning application to build Lincolnshire’s biggest wind farm said council officers committed a catalogue of errors.

It said planners at East Lindsey District Council made mistakes in dealing with the 20-turbine wind farm at Conisholme, near Louth.

As reported, it was first refused in 2004 due to the visual impact of the turbines on the Louth Marsh landscape.

But, Ecotricity’s second application for even bigger turbines was approved by East Lindsey District planners in October 2005.

A report from lawyers commissioned by East Lindsey District Council said councillors were “not best served by relevant officers”.

Lawyers from Pinsent Masons said officers failed to provide all details to planning councillors on the second application by Ecotricity.

They said: “It is wrong that the second application was not subject to some kind of independent landscape and visual assessment.

“In our view members, when determining the second application, should have had before them material specifically dealing with these aspects in relation to that application.”

They added: “The performance of officers seemed to us to fall short of what we believe members could reasonably expect of them.”

Lawyers said officers “inappropriately” concluded the benefits of the turbines outweighed any harm to the landscape.

They also criticised the lack of minutes taken from crucial meetings about the application.

The role of ELDC chief executive Nigel Howells came under the spotlight as he stepped in at the October planning meeting to provide “senior officer presence” because there was no monitoring officer or legal adviser.

That was despite him being “closely involved” through correspondence with both Ecotricity and the objectors.

The lawyers said it was up to Mr Howells to declare an interest, which he did not do.

They also said it was “surprising” no monitoring officer or legal adviser attended the meeting given the controversy surrounding the application.

Grimsby Telegraph

4 December 2007