Wiltshire Publications

Planning credibility of Wiltshire Council under fire say gasification action group after ‘curious decision’ played out on local radio

This entry was posted on Tuesday, February 12th, 2019 at 11:44 am.

The credibility of Wiltshire Council to make informed strategic planning decisions for the county was in the spotlight according to local man Dan Gmaj, a member of the Westbury Gasification Action Group (WGAG).

The ‘Hills Group’ application was agreed last month (seven councillors voted for the proposal and four councillors voted against).

Dan Gmaj said, “Prior to this meeting, WGAG had circulated a slideshow of photographs to the committee showing the visual impact of the new plant in comparison to the existing white Arla building (see Youtube: WGAG slideshow of Westbury), but it is unclear if any of these ‘actual views’ were seen by,  or their contents absorbed,  by the committee! 

“Committee chair, Fleur de Rhé Philipe,  who voted to approve the plans along with councillors Derek Brown, David Halik, Christopher Newbury, James Sheppard, Tony Trotman and Fred Westmoreland, stated on BBC Radio Wiltshire that evening, that, not only, was it “the right decision” on visual grounds, but also, that this plant was going to be built anyway so “we might as well approve the most ‘up to date’ one!” She also stated that “the existing white Arla building sticks out like a sore thumb” while insisting that the proposed ATT building would “not stick out like that at all!”

“Westbury deputy mayor, cllr Michael Sutton, challenged the planning committee chair’s arguments in the BBC piece, stating that she was being ‘disingenuous’ and said with regard to the Arla building, that “just because you have made one mistake in the past does not mean you should compound it with another” and continued  “This plant will be very, very visible!” 

“Cllr. Sutton also outlined his concerns for the region’s health and how the anticipated Environment Agency (EA) role would likely be ineffective if the plant were to be built as no regulations currently exist to be enforced on the ingestion of an accumulation of ‘pm1’ particles. The EA will only enforce existing inadequate regulations so should not be relied on solely to address that side of the argument as the SPC chairperson had suggested.”

Dan Gmaj of WGAG concluded, “Cllr. Mike Sutton and others are doing their best to stand up for the current and future health of our community, but it is most curious that the committee chair, Fleur de Rhé Philipe appeared conflicted of the reasons for her own approval, given just hours earlier, indeed it was apparent that she did not know the basis on which her actual decision was made!  Was it almost invisible, or not, or was I just going to vote in favour of it any way?   

“One thing that is very visible to me is that these seven councillors were acting on unsound recommendations that did not represent the expressed wishes and take into consideration the gravitas of the documented environmental arguments submitted by the people they were elected to serve. 

“This is far from the end of the story and I suspect and hope, in the interests of local democracy, that their actions on this occasion will not reflect well on them in future elections!”

More at: westburygag@gmail.com /Facebook / Twitter

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