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‘Lessons to be learned’ after Melton Council investigates site visit complaint

A parish council says it feels ‘badly let down’ after hearing the results of a Melton Council investigation to determine whether or not members of its planning committee looked at the correct site for a proposed wind turbine which was subsequently approved.

The investigation was launched after Melton borough councillor Elaine Holmes raised concerns at a meeting last month that the council’s planning officers had shown planning committee members the wrong site for the 46m-high turbine at Hall Farm in Brentingby during a site visit on September 1.

The results of the council’s investigation were announced at a planning committee meeting on Thursday.

Jim Worley, the council’s head of regulatory services, said it was concluded there was no evidence, from any source, indicating the committee viewed the incorrect site and accordingly the complaint was unsubstantiated.

But some councillors still felt they didn’t have an ‘unrestricted view’ of the proposed turbine site during their visit.

The council’s solicitor said site visits ‘were not mandatory’ but several committee members accepted there were ‘lessons to be learned’ in relation to future site visits for other planning applications.

Councillor John Illingworth said: “There are clearly lessons to be learned. Did we get near enough? (to the proposed wind turbine site), in hindsight, no, and we didn’t have an unobstructed view. Wind turbines are a contentious issue and there’s more pressure to get these ones right than other applications.”

Coun Alison Freer-Jones added: “We need to take more care. Site visits need to be more extensive and we need to make sure we’ve seen sites from everywhere.”

Coun Pru Chandler said: “The blame doesn’t go on the officers. We maybe should have gone nearer to the site but we could have done that ourselves. I’ll certainly learn from this. We’ve not come out in glowing colours but I think we did our best on the day.”

In a statement issued after the meeting, Freeby Parish Council said: “We very strongly consider we’ve been badly let down by Melton Council and its planning process. For whatever reasons, best practice procedures weren’t followed and, as a result, the beautiful unspoilt countryside will be ruined. While we acknowledge that planning committee members have pledged to try to avoid such situations arising in future, we are to be left with a 46m-high wind turbine.”