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Procedure failings give turbine applicant second bite of the cherry

Councillors vented their frustration at last Tuesday’s planning meeting after an application they had already made a decision on came back for discussion.

Permission was being sought from the Planning and Rights of Way Committee to vary a condition on an existing consent to allow for a slightly taller wind turbine (36.6m) to be built on land to the south of Castle Cenlas near Mathry.

Councillors voted against the recommendation for approval at last month’s meeting, but as no alternative motion was put forward the application came back for committee consideration.

Cllr Peter Stock said he had never come across this situation in 40 years as a councillor and was annoyed that no one reminded members to put forward a motion for refusal.

Cllr Tony Brinsden said: “It seems to me that we’re giving the applicant a second bite of the cherry.”

The Head of Planning, David Fitzsimon said: “The situation we have is unfortunate.

“We’re not asking you to change your minds, but we do need a formal resolution which we didn’t have at the last meeting.”

The recommendation for the application was again one of approval, and while Mathry Community Council had withdrawn its objection, the 36 letters of representation remained.

Addressing the committee, the applicant’s agent Martin Horne said: “Having the hindsight of knowing your comments from last month it is difficult to understand how there are still concerns about the application.

“There cannot be any cumulative impact with this proposal as it is not for an additional turbine, but simply an amendment to a consented turbine with slightly larger blades.”

He added that there was also no evidence to suggest the turbine will have an unacceptable impact on tourism.

Objector Annie Lock runs a luxury camping and yurt business near the proposed site. She said: “I shouldn’t need to be here again as this application was refused by you in a democratically taken vote at last month’s meeting. The agent seemed to have caused enough disruption for all the planning staff and legal advisors to overlook the procedure that should have followed after the vote.

“By approving this amendment a precedent for larger turbines in the area will be set. You have to decide do you want one of the defining features of the north Pembrokeshire countryside to be large turbines?”

Cllr Brian Hall, who last month moved for approval, changed his mind and moved for refusal. Ten members were in favour, with three councillors choosing to abstain.

The reason given for going against the recommendation was the proposed turbine’s visual and cumulative impact.