Thursday, June 21, 2012

Minimum distances between wind turbines & houses - A missed opportunity in East Yorkshire

Some 18 months ago I presented a motion to the East Riding of Yorkshire Council asking the Council to, “undertake a review of its ’Interim Planning Document on Renewable Energy’, which could include minimum distance criteria between wind turbines and sensitive land uses such as residential dwellings, rights of way and roads”.  This was approved at the meeting of the full Council.

I followed this up with a question to the Leader of the Council almost exactly a year ago asking for an update on progress, and also yesterday when I again asked for an update.

Unfortunately the responses to my questions both yesterday and a year ago indicate that the ERYC officers have done very little regarding my original motion, which is frustrating.  The answer is still the same, “This may be included when we eventually produce the ‘Core Strategy’ for development in the East Riding”.  That’s fine, but in the meantime many of our rural communities will be decimated by having large wind farms constructed overly close to their properties.

What is very trying is that the original motion came as a result of a number of conversations with the Council’s team of Barristers, expert witnesses and Planning Officers during and after the Sixpennywood wind farm appeal public inquiry, which was unfortunately lost and developer Your Energy given the go ahead to construct 12 x 125m high turbines on a site between Howden and Gilberdyke.  It is particularly ironic that it was these conversations precipitated the suggestion that I put forward the motion in the first place as they 'lacked this vital tool in their armoury.'
Needless to say, in Howdenshire work is progressing on the Sixpennywood site, but more alarming, is that since this site was approved others have followed and we now see access and community fund issues being formally discussed around the approved 5 turbine Spaldington Airfield site, the approved two turbine Gallymoor site is moving ahead, plans are in the pipeline for a large 8 turbine wind farm at the River Valley site between Spaldington and Holme on Spalding Moor, and the applicant of the already once refused plan for the Spaldington Common site is looking at submitting an amended scheme.
If ever there was an indication of the need for the planning guidance I’m asking for it was last year, in the process leading up to, and when the Spaldington Common Wind Farm application was thrown out by the Planning Inspector at appeal.  The inspector confirmed that the wind turbines would have been far too close to, and would have created a negative and overbearing impact on nearby properties.  This showed quite simply that there is a limit to how close to properties wind turbines can be built.  In the lead up to the appeal the ERYC Planning Committee had refused this application even though the Council’s Planning Officers had recommended approval.
If robust guidance had been in place firstly would we have seen this application and secondly, even we had the application would the Planning Officers have instead recommended refusal.  A recommendation of refusal, would have been much easier to defend at the Public Enquiry, and the officers would have been in a position to the use their abundant skills in putting forward some of the evidence, which would have no doubt saved the Council a significant amount of money by not having to employ very expensive consultants/expert witnesses.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Spaldington Composter fails in attempt to bring more stinking waste into area

(pictured with Spaldington residents)

Great news for Spaldington! An application by a local agricultural composter at Ivy House Farm near the Water Tower, to remove planning conditions that would allow him ‘to increase the type of stinking waste he can take in’ was unanimously thrown out by East Riding of Yorkshire Council Planning Committee. This was against the recommendations of the Council’s Planning Officers.

Spaldington resident Kath Westin spoke on behalf of the community describing vividly the foul smell which often engulfs the village. As their Howdenshire ward Councillor it was a pleasure for me to sum up and speak in support of Spaldington and Eastrington residents. I pointed out that to allow more animal bi-product waste streams, such has flesh from the tannery industry onto the site would have a serious adverse impact on the living conditions of nearby residents with respect to odour, and it was in conflict with both national and local planning policies. The applicant’s agent didn’t bother turning up for the meeting.

I felt this application was almost exactly the same as one refused by the Planning Committee in 2008 – which was subsequently appealed by the Composter, but the Planning Inspector came down on the side of the Committee in upholding their decision. The planning inspector had said “Planning policies indicate that the likely impact on the local environment and on amenity should be considerations when determining planning applications for waste management facilities” and that “it may be appropriate to use planning conditions to control aspects of the development, including impacts such as odour, where these impact on neighbouring land uses and sensitive receptors”. The Inspector also stated that he considered the present conditions to be “reasonable and necessary, and sufficiently precise to be enforceable.”

Many of you will recall I presented a motion to EYRC on the agricultural composting industry, leading to a detailed examination by the then Environment and Transport Overview and Scrutiny Committee in March 2008. (for more information please click here ). Since then we have seen a great improvement in practices of many composters throughout the East Riding – unfortunately I don’t feel we have seen much improvement in this composter’s operation. Quite simply Ivy House Farm stinks, it has for a number of years – and depending on which way the wind blows - so does Spaldington and Eastrington, and I failed to see that bearing in mind this composter’s operation stinks now with the present limits on what he can take in – imagine what it would have been like if he had been given carte blanch to bring anything and everything onto the site.

Who is the regulatory body supposed to protect residents when it comes to the potential nasty effects of agricultural composting of animal bi-products? – It’s the Environment Agency. Many will know that I’ve witnessed first-hand just how poor they are when it comes to regulating composters (and also a particular landfill site) – I certainly wouldn’t and can’t believe that any resident would want to leave it solely to the EA to protect Spaldington or Eastrington from the smell of death (as described by one of the Planning Committee members). I stressed that I wanted the ERYC to continue to play its part (and its duty) in regulating this site through the planning conditions already in place. This point was taken up by members of the Planning Committee in support of the refusal.
There had been 50 letters of opposition to this application which clearly showed people are sick of the smell created by this site as it is – I cannot imagine the impact on them if this was to have been made worse had planning consent been given.
Well done and many thanks to residents, Spaldington Parish Council and particularly the ERYC Planning Committee members for seeing this application for exactly what it was, and throwing it out!

Friday, June 01, 2012

My Council expenses for 2011/12

After being re-elected to serve the people of Howdenshire once again in May of last year, and after a very different, but immensely satisfying and productive year as an East Riding of Yorkshire Councillor – as part of my commitment to openness and transparency - the time has come for me to once more publish the expenses that I have claimed during the year.  The following details all the monies I have received during 2011/12.
I have received my basic councillor allowance of £10,711.00 plus an additional allowance of £310.23 which was for a short period where I was as Chairman of the Goole and Howdenshire Local Action Team at the beginning of the year. (these payments are subject to tax and national insurance).
I have again driven approximately 3,000 miles as a Councillor, many of which have been to evening meetings, in addition to the daytime meetings at County Hall and other places, I am able to reclaim expenses to cover the cost of travel when on council business and during the year I have claimed and received total of £1,450:00 for which detailed claim forms and receipts were submitted.
I am also entitled to an IT allowance to purchase computer equipment over the 4-year term of office, and an annual IT maintenance allowance.  This year I was only paid my IT maintenance allowance of £143:00.
I have claimed no expenses for food or subsistence whatsoever, as I would not ask the taxpayer to feed me.
Looking back over the past year, there have again been many weeks I have worked over 40 hours in my Councillor role.  As many of you know I represent Howdenshire, which is one of the largest wards geographically in the East Riding that stretches to 15 Parishes.
As a further measure of the work as a Councillor, I have received over 4,230 emails (excluding the junk emails) and sent 1,728 from my personal Councillor email address in the past year (both of which are up on previous years). This is in addition to the large number of phone calls and letters.
I stated earlier that I was Chair of the Goole and Howdenshire Local Action Team (LAT) at the beginning of the year - before being removed from the position by the Leader of the Council; but the LAT was replaced by the Goole and Howdenshire Community Partnership before the end of the year.  The Chairman of this new body became an elected position rather than an appointed role (it also became unpaid), it was therefore particularly satisfying to be elected to chair the new Partnership by the partners represented and representatives of the Parish & Town Councils in Goole and Howdenshire.
I have been immensely proud and privileged to have worked with some fantastic people over the year, including residents, Parish Councils, community groups, fellow Councillors, Council & partner officers, businesses and voluntary sector groups.  The year has not been without its frustrations particularly around such things as the Gilberdyke Tip and wind farm companies, but conversely I have been able to achieve much in helping residents and others in my role as an East Riding of Yorkshire Councillor - which continues to be immensely satisfying.