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

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

  1. Dan Gmaj

    February 25, 2019 at 6:37 pm

    (Full Story) For Photomontage see digital issue:

    “Planning credibility of Wiltshire Council under fire” say gasification action group after ‘Curious Strategic Planning Committee Decision’ played out on local radio

    The Credibility of Wiltshire Council to make informed strategic planning decisions for the county is in the spotlight according to local man and Westbury Gasification Action Group member Dan Gmaj, who, along with the one thousand strong community group, MP Andrew Murrison, Four Town Councils and Six Parish Councils all opposed the Hills Group ATT ‘PLAN 3’ last month!

    WGAG claims that “Plans to gasify ‘Waste from Anywhere’ and combust it over a 25 year period in Westbury were given a green light ‘by default’ as approval was effectively granted on grounds of the proposed plant being ‘Almost invisible on the landscape!’ ”

    The #HillsGroup #ATT Application was opposed by Four councillors but given the green light by Seven at County Hall in January. The outcome was immediately ‘called in’ by the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, James Brokenshire MP. His decision or recommendations are currently pending having himself received further representations from WGAG and the South West Wilts #AndrewMurrison MP among others who have expressed concern at the council’s approval on many grounds.

    WGAG member Dan Gmaj explained the process at county hall on the day: “At the beginning of the meeting it was refreshing to see some councillors ask as to where the waste material (fuel for the plant) will come from long term. They looked for direction to the ‘Chairperson’ and ‘Case Officer’ as to whether they should take such concerns into account when making their decision. The clear direction from case officer Andrew Guest, was that this case should be ‘by his recommendation’ only, considered on the basis of the previous refusal on the grounds of Size, Scale and Density of the proposed plant (Referring to Plan 2, currently under appeal). Both the case officer and chair made it clear that ‘any other’ considerations could mean the possibility of ‘incurred costs’ to the council in due course, possibly suggesting the cost of an appeals process, and further stated, that NRE / Hills were not required to state where any future waste supply may come from! It could come from anywhere! The case officer then ‘recommended to approve’ as Councillors were shown a presentation of the proposed site plan and photographs taken (at close range) by the case officer himself. In my opinion, the presentation was not representative of the big picture and therefore not fit for purpose! It was proposed by the applicant that the plant, as presented (i.e. Plan 3) would be ‘almost invisible on the landscape’ and on that basis and understanding the proposal was later approved by Seven votes to Four!”

    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!

    Dan Continued: “You really could not make this up! I genuinely applaud the Four councillors who correctly seemed to understand all the issues and moved to block this proposal, now ‘the third version’ of a proposal that our MP Andrew Murrison has already stated “is the wrong plant, in the wrong place, at the wrong time!” but the stated reasons for the approval completely beggar belief! (although I did predict them sadly after the previous refusal! – Cover Story WHN 681) I urge everyone to have a look at this image from the applicants own submission (See Picture) and let our community decide just how visible this building will be on the Landscape! Of course, ‘Visual impact’ is only part of the story here and at WGAG we are only too aware of that, but it is a matter of procedural accuracy to say that it was this one element alone that apparently convinced the Seven committee members to approve this ‘Cathedral of Waste’ on our doorstep and commit the region to 25 years of performance and profit driven ‘ill conceived’ combustion based waste strategy!”

    Committee chair, Fleur de Rhé Philipe, who voted ‘to approve’ along with Cllr’s. Derek Brown, David Halik, Christopher Newbury, James Sheppard, Tony Trotman and Fred Westmoreland, stated on BBC 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 Dept Mayor 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 Foods 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 ‘Environmental Agency 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.

    In summing up the BBC Interview, WGAG’s Dan Gmaj 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 favor of it anyway? 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

    Read all about it in the Westbury – White Horse News <3

    We love the White Horse News!

    #Westburygag ☺️

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *