Sunday, 27 November 2011

Windfarm Inquiry

Well as most people know the wind farm inquiry started last week.   There is much talk in Frodsham about how the inquiry is going - and what the evidence has been so far.

Wouldn't it be a good idea if the inquiry proceedings were broadcast on the web both live and available for consideration later?  That way there would be less reliance on the rumour mill - and a greater access to the truth. 

You might think, in this day and age, there would be a general acceptance that this level of openness and transparency should be the norm.  The Inspector has given his permission - we are now going through the technical checks that we will be able to broadcast the rest of the inquiry.

Unfortunately web-casting an event such as a planning inquiry doesn't come free.  Someone has to pay for it.   Cllr Lynn Riley and I have suggested that Peel Energy should meet half the costs, with the remaining half being shared between Frodsham Town Council, Helsby Parish Council and the Community Grant Funds managed by Cllrs Lynn Riley, Les Ford and me.  After all this is likely to be the most important planning inquiry in this part of the world in a generation!  The recent Tata Planning Inquiry in Northwich was broadcast - and the figures show there was considerable local interest in what was said.

Peel have point blank refused to make any contribution.  Seemingly they think they've done enough in paying the hotel bill for the inquiry.  Of course ultimate ironies - the venue isn't even in Frodsham, or in Cheshire West and Chester - rather over the border in Halton at the Holiday Inn.  In my view Forest Hills would have been the obvious choice - directly overlooking the application site - or should that be - at a height somewhat lower than the turbines?  And Forest Hills was used for the Ince Incinerator inquiry.

Anyway Peel, it seems aren't interested in making sure that as many people as possible get to hear and see the evidence about the windfarm... but then this is par for the course with Peel.  Frankly their record with regard to community relations and community engagement in this part of the world is beyond poor.  I shouldn't be surprised when they make no effort to engage with the community but I always seem to be.  If they were serious about community engagement I would have expected them to table the need to broadcast the inquiry and for them to pick up all of the costs directly.  After all what is around £10k in the scheme of things - especially bearing in mind the millions to be spent (and received in subsidy) on the windfarm if they are successful and the millions they will have spent in speculative costs in proposing the scheme in any event.

Well done Peel - another snub for the community and another needless own-goal for your media relations!