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Lincolnshire council mix-up at wind turbine planning inquiry ‘could cost thousands’

Opposing sides face a longer wait for a final decision on the Orby wind farm plan after a council mix-up saw the planning inquiry halted.

A hearing got under way last week into Mark Caudwell’s appeal against East Lindsey District Council’s decision to refuse permission for nine turbines off Marsh Lane.

But just hours after it started, the inquiry had to be called off when it emerged that ELDC had failed to send letters of notification of the hearing to all interested parties.

It meant the scheduled eight-day hearing was abandoned and a new date now needs to be set.

ELDC, Mr Caudwell and the Orby Wind Farm Action Group were all being represented at the hearing by individual barristers.

David Loveday, business manager for planning at ELDC, said: “The Planning Inspector took the decision to postpone the inquiry as it came to light that notification letters had not been sent to neighbours and interested parties.

“We will undertake an internal inquiry to understand why the letters were not sent and to establish a robust process to prevent such an error in the future.

“This delay has no bearing on the planning merits of the case or representations made and we remain determined to fight this appeal.

“Along with local people, we have prepared robustly for this appeal, and we share the frustration and apologise for the delay it has caused.”

A spokesman for the authority said that it was known how much the delay would cost but that it was was not expected to be a significant amount.

However, appellant Mark Caudwell said he thought the sum could run into several thousand pounds.

Mr Caudwell said: “Both the protestors and us will be making claims for any extra costs that have been incurred through the delays.

“I have been told by my solicitors it could well be quite a few thousands of extra costs that will be billed to me but ELDC are totally liable because they didn’t follow the procedure.

“The last time our QC had heard of this happening was 1985, it’s very rare.”

Mr Caudwell said both his legal team and inspector Trevor Cookson could be ready to reconvene on August 21 but were waiting confirmation from ELDC and OWAG.

OWAG chairman Melvin Grosvenor said although the delay was frustrating, he was not overly surprised at what had happened.

He told the Target: “Although it’s completely regrettable this error has occurred, in some ways I am not surprised because the planning department is under tremendous strain and pressure with all these major applications pouring in.

“My main concern is the local communities that are going to suffer yet another delay because this was initially refused in March 2011 and it just extends the uncertainty.

“I was encouraged ELDC would continue to defend their stance on refusing the application robustly and we will continue to work with ELDC to move the inquiry on as quickly as we can.”

OWAG’s representation at the appeal was expected to cost around £25,000 – £30,000 and it is likely that this figure will now increase.

Mr Grosvenor added: “We will have to make an application for costs and the appellant will do like wise. We had to book hotels for our team which have had to be put off. There is definitely a cost implication.

“The appeal has needed considerable costs on OWAG’s behalf anyway and we would still welcome any financial support from the local community.”