A computer glitch that prevented online access to controversial wind farm plans has forced North Dorset District Council to extend the application’s consultation period.
Technical problems caused by the integration of the district council’s website with the Dorset for You site meant users could not access the controversial plans for a four-turbine wind farm at Silton from Wednesday, September 1. On Tuesday it was still not possible to access the plans.
The problem follows an earlier mistake when the district council first posted the new application online in July and accidentally published nine chapters from a previous application for a six-turbine scheme, which was rejected in July 2009.
The council has now decided to put back the deadline for public comments from September 15 to October 4.
Access to other planning applications has not been affected by the migration of the district council’s website, which went live on www.dorsetforyou.com on Wednesday, September 1.
The glitch has meant that anyone wishing to comment on the plans could not view them online and would have to travel to the district council offices in Blandford, Gillingham Town Hall or one of various libraries to view paper copies.
Before the problem, more than 1,000 letters of opposition to the plans were submitted to the district council and parish councils in Gillingham, Penselwood, Zeals, Silton, Bourton and Cucklington have all voted to oppose the new plans.
Save our Silton protest group chairman Chris Langham said: “I think the way the district council has handled this application has been completely shambolic.
“Perhaps it is because it is the holiday season, but I still do not understand why they could not get it right in the first place.
“Originally we asked for the deadline to be extended to October 4, but the request was refused. However, thanks to this fiasco we have got the extension we should have had in the first place.”
A district council spokesman said: “The new website provides much improved functionality and enables local people to find an array of public service information on one website instead of jumping between several different sites. This was a major project which has taken several months to plan.
“Inevitably there were some technical hitches. Some links to the old NDDC website failed to connect with the dorsetforyou domain name for the first few days. This has now been resolved.
“The only outstanding problem is the inability to view planning applications online. This is being addressed and will be available online as soon as possible.”
The Save our Silton group has released a series of independently commissioned photomontages to demonstrate how large the turbines would appear on the landscape.
Mr Langham claims that photomontages commissioned by Ecotricity make the turbines appear smaller and more distant than would be the case in reality.
Ecotricity press officer Mike Cheshire rejected the claims, saying: “Great care has been taken to ensure our photomontages accord with agreed standards set out by the local planning authority.
“It is not in our interests to submit an application that tries to mislead local planners because they will see through it and look less favourably on the application.”
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