News just in that the High Court has quashed Carmarthenshire County Council's controversial decision to approve a wind turbine at Mwche Farm, Llansteffan, overlooking Dylan Thomas's old home in Laugharne.
Readers may recall that the planning committee last year ignored planning officers' advice to reject the application, with local "Independent" county councillor and current Chair of Carmarthenshire County Council, Daff "Elmer Fudd" Davies, playing a key part in persuading the committee to support the turbine on his old friend's farm.
The County Council will now pay the claimants' full costs of £21,275 in addition to its own no doubt considerable legal bill. Not much change out of £50,000, then.
Elmer's disastrous year as Council Chair will come to an end in May, but he will no doubt continue to sit on the Planning Committee until the next local government elections scheduled for 2017. Such is his standing that he is currently vice chair of that august body.
The battle may not be over yet, however, because the High Court decided that the council could appeal the decision. An appeal would be madness, of course, but that has never stopped them before.
The full text of the judgement can be found here.
The principal reason for quashing planning permission was that despite proposals to screen the turbine with trees, the top part of the turbine could still clearly be seen across a wide area, and the decision to grant planning permission therefore flew in the face of legal requirements to take into account the visual impact on a landscape of historical and cultural significance.
The judge makes short shrift of Daff Davies's contribution:
The Committee considered the application at its meeting
on 3rd June 2014. It was addressed by, among others Councillor D B
Davies, who was the local member and had stood down from the Committee
for the purposes of considering the application after declaring a
personal interest. He made representations on the application,
including a representation that the hill and application site were
obscured from the boathouse by woodland. It is quite plain from looking
at the photographs that his representation could carry no weight. The
Committee could not have been misled, because the photomontage
demonstrating the visual impact was exhibited at the Committee Meeting.
Or to put it another way, Daff Davies was spouting rubbish, as would have been obvious to anyone who examined the documents. In Carmarthenshire it would however be wrong to assume that all members of the planning committee actually go to the trouble of reading the reports or looking at the evidence before them.
The planning officers do not get off lightly either:
There is at best, some considerable confusion in the
thinking of the Officer. It is not possible to read his words that "it
will not give rise to any adverse environmental impact upon the
surrounding area" in the context of his report which had taken great
care to set out all of those impacts.
In other words, the officer listed all sorts of reasons why the proposals did not meet planning policy before concluding the exact opposite.
This is known to aficionados as a Carmarthenshire planning department handbrake turn.