An Uplawmoor woman who claims she was subjected to malicious abuse because she objected to a planning application has responded cautiously to the move.
Aileen Jackson set up Uplawmoor Wind Turbine Protest Group in an ultimately fruitless bid to thwart the construction of a windfarm adjacent to the village.
In January 2012 the Barrhead News reported claims that she and others opposed to the development were targeted by unidentified opponents.
Examples cited at the time included dead rats being left in open view, broken glass scattered across a field used by horses and private water tanks being drained over night.
There were also claims that horses’ anti-fly coats were cut off and slashed in pieces and several cars vandalised.
In the worst case, it was alleged a teenager was threatened, and told to tell anyone who might consider objecting to a particular scheme they would be “seriously hurt”.
Although there was never any suggestion that developers were involved, Aileen says the alleged incidents put off some people from making their objections public.
In that respect she welcomed the local authority’s decision to no longer publish personal details online but questioned the council’s motivation behind the decision.
Recalling her experiences in 2012, she said: “I was urged by my lawyer to make this information public as he quite rightly said bullies have to be dealt with and the best way to do that is not to hide but to publicise the facts.
“It worked as things calmed down considerably. However, the downside was that many objectors were too scared to make further representations in case they received the same treatment as us.”
Referring to the changes which were rubber-stamped last week, she added: “I brought this up with one of our councillors a while back and suggested all personal information be removed from representations. However I doubt that had any influence on ERC’s current proposal as this is really just a time and cost cutting operation.
“I sympathise greatly with the Planning Authority as they are stretched to the limits but I’m not sure if this idea is in the best interests of the public or the applicant.
“It will not stop “bullying” as the representations will still be available for viewing at the office with all personal data intact. My suggestion would be to still publish online and allow viewing at the office with all personal data removed.
“This allows the applicant to easily gauge the strength of opinion, without many time consuming and expensive trips to the Office, and allows them to respond to the concerns raised. There is no need for the applicant to know the author, only ERC so they can be confident it is a legitimate representation.
“Objectors will feel comfortable knowing their personal data is not being misused which will give them confidence to express their opinion and not live in fear of repercussions.
“I also think it unfair to suggest that people ‘copy’ others’ comments. Planning applications are often accompanied by many, long and technical documents which most people do not have the time, inclination or expertise to read and understand.
“Few take the time to research the meaning of a ‘material planning consideration’ so to be able to read other people’s comments saves them time and effort and stops them wasting their objection by referring to issues which will not be taken into account by decision makers.”
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