Powys County Council (PCC) has been rapped over the knuckles by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) for failing to respond to a request for information within the statutory time limit of 20 days.
The request was made under Environmental Information Regulations (EIR) which is very similar to the Freedom of Information Act (FOI) but deals with environmental issues.
PCC said it is “taking steps” to comply with the commissioner’s notice.
On October 17, 2019 a request for information about the controversial Hendy Wind Farm, near Llandegley, was made.
PCC was asked: “We request all written communication (emails, records of meetings, hardcopy letter, plans etc.) since January 1, 2019, internally between Powys Council officers and between the Hendy Wind Farm developer, or any other parties about the removal of Turbine 5 other arrangements, concerning Condition 7 of the Welsh Minister’s planning approval.”
They also asked about:
Intentions to develop a turbine and track layout outside the red-line planning boundary in the approved plans.
Intentions for development of an entrance from the A44 and access across common land outside the red-line planning boundary and deviating from the Environmental Statement documents and the approved plans.
The need for commons consent before the development of Hendy Wind Farm.
The request was acknowledged by PCC on October 18, 2019.
The complainant contacted PCC several times through November and December asking for updates on the request.
The Council responded with apologies and some explanations for the delayed response.
On December 8, 2019, the complainant contacted the commissioner, who looked at the scope of EIR and the wording of the request and deemed that the information request should have been dealt with in the 20-day period.
The Information Commissioner’s report said: “On December 13, 2019, the Commissioner wrote to the Council, reminding it of its responsibilities and asking it to provide a substantive response to the complainant within 10 working days.
“Despite this intervention the Council has failed to respond to the complainant.
“For the evidence provided in this case, it is clear that the Council did not deal with the request for information in accordance with the EIR.
“The Commissioner finds that the Council has breached regulation 5 (2) by failing to respond to the request within 20 working days and it is now required to response to the request in accordance with EIR.”
A spokesperson for PCC said: “The County Council has acknowledged that it failed to provide a valid response to the request within the statutory time frame and has apologised to the requester.
“The Council is taking steps to ensure that it complies with the Information Commissioner’s notice and provides the information requested.
“The information request was a complex issue that involved a significant amount of information connected with the Hendy Windfarm application.”
Hendy Windfarm has been a controversial topic for several years.
In October 2018, Lesley Griffiths AM, at the time the Welsh Government Rural Affairs Minister, gave the developers planning permission.
She overturned previous decisions made by PCC and a Planning Inspector who were both against granting permission to developers Njord Energy Ltd for the seven wind turbines to be built at Llandegley.
In December 2018, work to build one turbine (number 5) began before planning permission discharges had been finalised, which had protesters up in arms.
Then, CPRW (The Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales) took legal action to extend an injunction stopping developers from working at the site until all permission discharge conditions had been met, but failed.