Cash strapped council planners can’t afford to reply to thousands of letters objecting to windfarm developments.
Some turbine applications on Anglesey have been met with hundreds of responses from residents concerned they’ll wreck views and damage tourism.
With more than 50 turbine applications in progress, postage costs doubling and the number of response letters spiralling, the practice of acknowledging the letters received has been suspended by the county.
Turbine objectors will also not be directly informed of the result of the application.
Head of planning Dewi Francis Jones said replying to every letter on wind turbine applications was costly and diverting resources from “front line service delivery”.
He said it will be halted until further notice. This has infuriated turbine protestors and the local authority’s own planning committee has also expressed unease.
Turbine campaigner Paul Madden said: “The situation is intolerable. People are angry about a planning system that is not able to function properly in a transparent, democratic and rational manner.”
He said the extra costs should be borne by wind turbine applicants.
Another campaigner Vicky Cepel said: “What a farce. It makes a mockery of the whole system of public consultation.”
Responding by letter to acknowledge and later give a decision to 1,000 complainants would cost £1,000 in postage alone since second class stamps rose to 50p.
This is on top of the cost in man-hours of writing response letters.
Cllr John Chorlton, who sits on the planning committee, said: “The decision has been taken by officers without consultation with members.
“As portfolio holder for finance I understand why they have done this, I am on their backs to cut spending and that is what they are trying to do but at the same time we do need transparency.
“Costs have gone up as postage has now doubled and this is a factor in the decision but members have asked for this to be looked at again. We would like a solution where costs can be reduced but we can continue to keep people informed.”
The committee have asked planning portfolio holder Cllr Robert Hughes to take their concerns to officers.
Mr Francis Jones said applications would continue to be publicised and letters will be placed on the appropriate planning file and the views taken into account. He said decisions made at committee will be available from council minutes and on the website.
Anglesey council leader Bryan Owen said he had every sympathy with those complaining about large turbines, and that he was also concerned about them.
But he added: “People have to be reasonable and with the massive cuts we are facing it is becoming impossible to acknowledge and respond to every letter.
“We have to direct energy and resources elsewhere.”
A council spokesman said unprecedented demand meant representations would now be made publicly before committees and letters would be taken into account.
He added: “Given that committee decisions are also made publicly available on the council’s website, and in the interest of the public purse, we will no longer be writing directly to the hundreds of people making representations each time a wind turbine application is submitted.”
A “SLIDING scale” should be introduced to determine how far wind turbines should be from houses, say councillors.
The suggestion was made as Anglesey council’s environment and technical services scrutiny committee discussed the authority’s revised supplementary planning guidance (SPG) for wind turbines.
A minimum separation distance of 500m between medium and large turbines and residential properties was suggested in the planning guidelines.
Cllr Hefin Thomas said: “If you have a turbine which is 25m high and a turbine which is 115m high, you need a bigger buffer zone for the bigger turbine.
“We need a sliding scale so that the bigger a turbine is, the further it will be from residential properties.”
Members approved the suggestion.
The SPG will now be subject to a further eight weeks of public consultation from August 9.
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