A firm which withdrew plans to build a controversial wind farm in Staffordshire should help to cover the £50,000-plus dent it left in the taxpayers’ purse, a county councillor has said.
Despite there being no legal ground to support the move, the payback call has been made by Lichfield’s Rural East county councillor Matthew Ellis.
It comes after German company Prowind withdrew its plans for four massive wind turbines at Hoggs Hill at Haunton, near Tamworth, just an hour before a Lichfield District Council planning meeting where the scheme was recommended for refusal.
About 900 residents in Haunton, Clifton Campville and Elford had objected to the original plan – which Prowind has now replaced with a smaller plan for two wind turbines at the same site.
It is estimated that the cost in man hours alone for council planning officers dealing with the original application is between £60,000 and £80,000.
Prowind paid £10,000 towards the council’s costs, which means the bill to the taxpayer is between £50,000 and £70,000, according to Coun Ellis.
Mr Ellis has accused the firm of “highly unpalatable” and costly tactics.
He said: “Clearly, the community’s strong message has been heard and the company’s tactic is to withdraw the application rather than risk any confirmation of refusal by the council’s planning committee.
“It now means the existing application, which has been ongoing for nearly 18 months, no longer exists.”
Coun Ellis added: “I find it highly unpalatable that the tactical approach of Prowind means so much council tax payers’ money – tens of thousands of pounds – has had to be spent by the district council for no reason. Whilst I understand there is no legal mechanism to do so, I am encouraging the district council to take a stand in these circumstances and invoice Prowind for all or some of the cost of administering this withdrawn application.”
Planning committee chairman Coun Richard Cox said: “There is no way for the council to seek further money from the applicant, if a planning application is withdrawn.”
He said Prowind paid a set planning application fee of £9,715, which will not be refunded.
Johannes Busmann, managing director of Prowind, said the company chose to withdraw its application after it was told the council was recommending the committee refuse the wind farm plans.
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