Feb 212013
 

Are you sitting comfortably? Good. Because what follows gets a bit complicated. That said, I believe there is now enough evidence to question the legitimacy of the decision taken by Swansea council on February 7th to allow RWE to erect wind turbines on Mynydd y Gwair, common land owned by the Duke of Beaufort on the city’s northern outskirts. My previous posts this month on Swansea council are, in chronological order, here and here.

Perhaps the first thing to make clear is that the long-serving local councillor, Ioan Richard, was not allowed to vote on February 7th because he had previously shown his opposition to the project. In other words, he’d been open and honest about his position. The same may not be the case for a number of those who voted to grant planning permission.

My attention has been drawn to the fact that RWE’s Renewables Developer for Mynydd y Gwair, Gwenllian Elias, tweets as @gwenll_elias, and among her 59 followers are Councillor Mitchell Theaker (@mitchelltheaker) and Councillor Pearleen Sangha (@PearleenSangha). She reciprocates Sangha 2by following them. (Another Swansea councillor Ms Elias follows is Nick Bradley (@CllrNickBradley) the council’s number one West Bromwich Albion fan.) On the night of (possibly the day after) the Mynydd y Gwair vote, Pearleen Sangha tweeted her joy at the outcome of the council meeting . . . and her tweet was almost immediately retweeted by Gwenllian Elias of RWE! Great minds, eh!

Now this may be harmless enough, perhaps nothing more than contact limited to Twitter. Alternatively, it could suggest that Elias, Sangha and Theaker were known to each other before the vote was taken. In which case it puts a totally different complexion on the matter. For if they knew each other before the vote then, seeing as both Sangha and Theaker voted for the bird and bat mincers, they were as ‘compromised’ as Councillor Richard in that their minds were also made up long before the discussion of the matter, and the vote, on February 7th. If that was the case then they should not have been allowed to vote.

Now let us turn to Llansamlet’s very own advocate of permanent revolution, Councillor Uta Clay, who has come in for a bit of a hammering of late, partly for stoutly defending the Duke of Beaufort’s financial interests, and partly for making silly remarks during the February 7th debate. This letter is just one of a number I am told have appeared in the Evening Post. As the letter suggests, how could this woman, who has only been in Swansea for five minutes, be so silly and insulting as to slur ordinary Welsh protesters as belonging to the “privileged few”. A category to which an English nobleman apparently does not belong! (Is this making sense?)

You also have to ask why, after the local party had the good sense to deselect her, and suspend her and her husband, some unnamed authority representing ‘London’ stepped in to insist the Clays’ suspensions be lifted and she be reinstated as candidate for the May 2012 council elections. What happened to devolution? What happened to ‘Welsh’ Labour?

Someone else who’s only been in Swansea for five minutes is New Zealander Andrew Hore, ‘Elite Performance Director’ at the Ospreys. (Not to be confused with the Andrew Hore who did the dirty on Bradley Davies last autumn) Hore was allowed to speak at the February 7th meeting in favour of the Mynydd y Gwair money machine. RWE sponsors the Ospreys, and a number of councillors are season ticket holders at the Ospreys; others have received ‘hospitality’. Which looks a bit . . . er . . . iffy? Here is a (PDF) link to an interesting exchange between Edwina Hart, a local AM, and Patrick Arran, Head of Legal, Democratic Services and Procurement at Swansea council, in which Ms Hart questions why Hore was allowed to speak at the council meeting. A good question.

Then, today, a letter appeared in the Wasting Mule from a Swansea councillor – one who actually knows the city, and can pronounce Mynydd y Gwair! What Councillor Tyler-Lloyd is (perhaps unwittingly) alluding to is a system now becoming dominant in Welsh political and public life. It begins with civil servants in London or Cardiff issuing diktats. When this is done in London it’s invariably done on the instructions of  politicians; when it’s done in Cardiff it’s too often done on orders from London and presented to the self-styled Welsh Government as a fait accompli. (Well, what do you expect? If Welsh Labour won’t stand up to ‘London’ on matters of internal party discipline do you really think they’re going to challenge Sir Humphrey in Whitehall?) These diktats then become Gospel for senior officers in local government who use them – and the threat of the expense involved in challenging them – to silence debate and stifle opposition. R.I.P. Welsh local democracy.

As it takes hold we see this process leading to situations such as that which has been played out in a London courtroom this week, as Fuehrer James of Carmarthenshire County Council sues – with public money – a blogger who dared criticise his regime. Or the cabinet of Labour-controlled Caerffili council meeting behind closed doors to give whopping pay rises to senior officers . . . at the insistence of the chief executive – i.e. the major beneficiary!

The wider and more worrying picture though is of a Wales in which we have the chimera of devolution while the reality sees us Welsh becoming increasingly marginalised and silenced across the land. In the rural areas the picture is stark, and villages and small towns are taken over by English colonists, but even in the city of Swansea we see it happening.

For one interpretation of that vote on the 7th of this month would be thart it was a victory for those who view our homeland as a resource to exploit, or else the political equivalent of a sandpit, somewhere to start one’s political career. On the one hand we had an English lord whose family has been robbing us for centuries, a German company here to milk the absurd subsidies paid for so-called ‘renewable energy’, a bunch of ex-student politicians that include a GLTB fanatic, a Californian, a West Brom supporter, another with an interest in cadets, then there’s a New Zealander working for the local rugby team (most of whose supporters still don’t understand what his bloody job is), and assorted other drifters, misfits and parasites who know fuck all about the city I love.

All these were allowed to speak, despite many if not all having already made up their minds on the issue or, worse, having a vested financial or other interest in seeing wind turbines on lovely Mynydd y Gwair. Yet, the councillor in whose ward Mynydd y Gwair is to be found, who had no financial or other interest, who had been open and honest in his opposition, and who represented the views of the overwhelming majority of his constituents – that is, those directly affected by the industrialisation of Mynydd y Gwair – was thrown out of the council chamber.

Where does this leave democracy, local or otherwise? And given that virtually all those on the one side of this debate were foreign, and almost all those on the other side were Welsh, what does it tell us about our country today? And our place in it?

UPDATE 23.02.2013: Interesting comments to the post from Jeff Jones and James Dunkley. Both question whether Councillor Ioan Richard was given the correct legal advice by the council officer(s). (Jeff Jones is the former leader of Bridgend Council who now works as a local government consultant.) They aren’t the only ones asking these questions. If Cllr Richard was wrongly told to leave the chamber then it must call into question either the competence or the impartiality of the person who gave that advice. (Patrick Arran. See the link in the post to his exchange with Edwina Hart AM.)       

Gwenllian Elias, the RWE Npower project officer for Mynydd y Gwair’s CV reads: 2007, left Cardiff University with BSc in Geography and Planning. September 2007 to September 2008 Planner with Newport City Council. September 2008 to August 2009 Planner with City and County of Swansea Council. August 2009 to April 2010 Planning Liason Officer with the Environment Agency. April 2010 to present Renewables Developer with RWE Npower Renewables Ltd. Looks like a planned career course: gain the background knowledge and contacts in the public sector before heading into the private sector and the serious money. And all done in less than three years.

The behaviour of certain councillors at the February 7th meeting, the near certainty of them being predetermined to vote in favour of the Mynydd y Gwair development, plus their established links with RWE’s project officer, has been referred to the Local Government Ombudsman for Wales.

  53 Responses to “Swansea Council, English Lords, Swansea Labour Party, German Multinationals, Student Politics, Trots, Wind Turbines, etc., etc: Part the Third”

  1.  

    We’ve become irrelevant in our own country, talking about irrelevant, what was Plaid Cymru’s stance amongst all of this?

    •  

      Plaid has been wiped out in Swansea. But we know where the party nationally stands on wind turbines. Or maybe that should be ‘stood’; for as Bob Dylan sang, ‘Don’t need to be a weather man to know which way the wind blows’. It’s game over for wind turbines.

  2.  

    You’ve been fracking your brain and came up with basically nothing.
    A few with groans about the view – Big deal.
    Nothing that gets anywhere close to the way mining companies behave around North America – See DVDs “H2Oil” and “Gasland” and note how drilling companies pump lead, arsenic and carcinogenic chemicals into the earth, air and water.

  3.  

    You’ve been fracking your brain and came up with basically nothing.
    Nothing that gets anywhere close to the way mining companies behave around North America – See the DVDs “H2Oil” and “Gasland” and note how drilling companies pump lead, arsenic and carcinogenic chemicals into the earth, air and water.

  4.  

    Wind turbines were never a practical solution to the need for renewable energy and those who support them exhibit all the characteristics of religious believers. And like all religious believers it’s pointless arguing with them because logic and science just don’t come into it.

    I’m also sickened by all the solar panels you see sprouting up on the houses of the better-off throughout Wales. If you want a solar panel to help cut your electricity bill fair enough, but instead it is the poor who have to pay for all this nonsense while the wealthy pocket a nice little cheque for heating their own garage. Again with very little contribuition to actually cutting fossil fuel usage.

    What a shame that Plaid Cymru is obsessed with the green religion rather than worrying about the Welsh people and the Welsh environment.

    Hope something comes of the skullduggery you’ve highlighted but I won’t hold my breath.

  5.  

    Got to smile at old annonymouse – Jac doesn’t mention fracking, he doesn’t mention the bloody view or mining companies in North America.

    I doubt you have to tell any native of Swansea about lead and arsenic in the soil either!!!

  6.  

    So, what is the alternative?
    Go on burning fossil fuels? – The filthy rich are not going to let the masses consume all of the oil and gas.
    Get an electrically powered tractor and combine harvester? – Forget it.
    Dead birds? – If you’re really going to continue running with that myth, ban vehicles that kill thousands of them per day on roads.
    Oh yes, fracking and the damage it causes – Very important if you wish to be sensible about the issue of energy production but, there’s nothing logical from those who prefer the disinformation peddled by owners of corporations who fund the anti-climate change ‘think-tanks’.
    Lead and other poisons used in South Wales years ago fade into insignificance when the toxic lakes of Alberta can be seen from the international space station.
    Moan about the small subsidies offered to those installing renewal energy systems but, ignore the £67.5billion needed to clean up Sellafield plus the £billions more to pay for future nuclear power stations? Yeh, right.

    •  

      Eloquent little rant but it don’t change the fact that wind turbines are an expensive and unreliable waste of money. And it’s wind turbines I’m talking about.

  7.  

    In England the Localism Act 2012 abolishs the concept of predetermination from 15 January 2012. There is also clear case law in the case of a JR involving a decision by Bridgend CBC regarding Island Farm by Mr Justice Collins which calls into question the issue of predetermination and the right of a councillor to take part in a decision. MrJustice Collins makes the logical point that politicians are always biased ! I’m no legal expert but I believe that the decision to stop Ioan Richards from taking part in the vote was incorrect. He should have been allowed to speak and vote and the onus should then have been on RWE to challenge the decision if the application had been rejected. Other councillors in Wales have also rejected applications for wind farms even though they have been in Tan 8 areas on the grounds of the effect on the landscape. As long as there is a logical reason for rejection and effect on the landscape is one then councillors are in the clear when it comes to rejecting officer’s advice. That’s what democracy is all about. Officers advise and members decide. For a planning officer to argue that councillors have no choice but to accept a recommendation to grant plannig permission because of the Tan 8 advice note is complete horlicks in my opinion. But they get away with it time after time because of the inexperience and lack of confidence of members. As the old NUM banner rightly argued ‘Knowledge is Power’.

    •  

      Seeing as Cllr Richard was asked to leave the assumption must be that all those who remained sat there with open minds ready to hear both arguments before coming to their decision. Yet more ‘horlicks’.

  8.  

    First off -great post as ever Jac. Keep up the good work.

    Second off, I’d like to echo the comments of Jeff Jones, who mentions the Localism Bill. The provisions on “Pre-determination”apply in both Wales and England, and the Welsh Government has issued guidance on these provisions. They make clear that Councillors can campaign on issues of local importance and still vote on them. Following on from this, local authorities across Wales have started issuing guidance on these provisions. Which brings us to Swansea.

    I rang the legal services department of Swansea Council early last year and asked them about this legislation. They couldn’t give me a definitive answer, and the impression I was left with is that they hadn’t prepared for it. A year down the line, and we have a planning meeting (which I attended) in which at least one Councillor was disbarred from voting on the back of what now appears to be flawed and out-dated advice.

    To clarify this I have put in a Freedom of Information request for all correspondence between the Welsh Government and Swansea Council in relation to this Bill, and a breakdown on all advice given to Councillors relating to the new provisions on pre-determination.

    If it comes back that they haven’t advised their councillors on this new legislation, then it will be perfectly clear that the legal basis on which the application stands is not sound, and will be open to challenge. And take it from me, it won’t be the first time Swansea Council have buggered up a major planning application. They have form.

  9.  

    Gwyddno asks what about the alternatives – well the tide and gravity are two dependable sources of energy in a way that wind will never be.

    Then how about actually trying to cut electricity usage.

    Funny how Gwyddno thinks those evil capitalists are only interested in fracking etc. They’re interested in anything that makes a profit and climbed on and took control of the green bandwagon long ago.

    •  

      Exactly. ‘Green’ energy often appears to be an unholy alliance of tree-huggers and the worst kind of capitalists. Odd bedfellows.

      Something else Gwynddno should grasp is that some time in the not-too-distant future, with energy prices rocketing, there will be shortfalls in supply, i.e. power reductions and cuts.

      At that point, fracking will be seriously considered, especially as more and more people realise that fracking in the US has sent prices tumbling.

  10.  

    I grasped that years ago. The problem is similar to the problem of rising population. Most agree that population growth is alarming and something must be done but, at family level, people point at others and say that everyone else must cut back.
    Have you noticed that fracking in the eastern part of the USA has progressed northwards up to the point that the water supply to New York City may be affected soon? Americans are now paying attention.
    Yes. Energy generation by harnessing tidal flow is an option but governments, here and elsewhere, seem to be interested in short term answers that benefit their rich donors.

    •  

      Gwyddno – have you ever bothered to check the rising population myth?

      Countries like China, India, Brazil etc etc are not even experiencing the 2.2 biths per mother needed to maintain their present populations.

      Apart from a few Muslim countries in Africa most countries are actually seeing a fall in population.

  11.  

    @Jim Dunckley
    The Yokelism Acts are brilliant aren’t they?

  12.  

    @ Eric Pode

    And fair play to the Tories for bringing them in. If nothing else they’ve done a teeny bit to reverse 13 years of Labour’s Stalinist Agenda of handing power to officers at the expense of elected members.

    Jim.

  13.  

    @Jim Dunckley
    With the passing of the Yokelism Act of 2011 local councils still have the responsibility of housing homeless families but, the council can find them accommodation anywhere in the UK. Witness workers on low pay in London being re-homed so far away from their places of employment that they have to quit. Goodbye Stalin?
    Keep on cherry picking Jim.

    Whilst the above para has no immediate link to wind turbines, it is part of the big picture and people need to be aware at how the current ConDem government are serving the miserable, filthy rich, parasitic corporations and, judging by the comments in online newspaper websites, getting support from a large section of UK citizens.

  14.  

    @Eric Pode

    “…re-housed anywhere in the UK”.

    Ah, you mean like Merthyr, where English metropolitan authorities are buying up local housing stock that should be going to locals – many of whom will be lucky to find any kind of job in an area whose Industrial base has been destroyed by Unionist (LabourTory) mismanagement.

    And as the the ConDems, lets not forget that many of the “miserable, filthy rich” corporations also sponsor the Labour Party (National Grid, anyone?), who of course also chucked a lot of taxpayers money at another load of “miserable, flithy rich” corporations – the Banks.

    Keep on cherry picking Eric.

  15.  

    @Jim D
    Read my comment about population. Behaving like a bit-wise object in a computer program and merely pointing at others is useless without providing a solution.
    I’m in favour of cutting back on unnecessary consumption of petrochemicals , the worldwide taxation of aviation fuel, making all future buy-to-let mortgages illegal and the introduction of rent controls.
    Also, I would promote of all renewable energy generators.
    At local level, I want all owners of second homes paying council tax at 200% of the standard rate.
    Out of a matter of interest, what would you have done after Lehman Bros and Northern Sock collapsed?

  16.  

    Which comment would that be…Gwyddno (Evening Post)? It appears you have a bad case of multiple trolling disorder…

  17.  

    I don’t know what Jim D would have done but I’d have let the banksters go bust.

    The reality is that all the unionist parties are enemies of Wales and our country’s tragedy is that Plaid Cymru is not much better.

  18.  

    @Jim D
    Eh? Troll? Look again.
    So what would you have done in 2008 and what would you do now?
    @V E Dymshyts
    No banks. All ATMs switched off. No pay. No one accepting card payments.
    If you know of a way that the government could have done to the banks what Henry VIII did to the monastries and get away with it, please tell us.

  19.  

    Ok, boys; too many off-topic comments. Stick to the subject or risk non-publication.

  20.  

    Jeff Jones and others aside, the crucial issue for councillors is not ‘predetermination’ which lays a planning decision outcome open to challenge (in the courts) but rather that speaking & voting on a matter in which they have previously stated their views may constitute a potential breach of the local government conduct with respect to personal or prejudicial interests. No-one can be forced to leave a planning committee meeting. It is a personal decision on whether you remain but few members decide to do so after following legal advice.

    •  

      Either we make the absurd assumption that all councillors go in to discuss planning applications with open minds or else we allow all to vote irrespective of what they may think, or may have said.

      On the matter of wind turbines at Mynydd y Gwair, the issue had gained so much publicity beforehand that I doubt there was a single councillor whose mind was not already made up. So why penalise the one who’d been honest about it and, by so doing, had represented the views of his constituents, the ones most directly affected.

      Furthermore, given that this was about wind turbines, it boiled to one’s views on them and perhaps one’s attitude to environmentalism in general. So there would have been predetermination across the board. Again, why pick on one councillor?

      •  

        Two points:

        Provision exists that if a matter has attracted comment or support from all or a sufficiently large number of councillors, e.g. voting as a council whether a Welsh language medium school should be built, then the requirement to declare an interest when the matter is to be determined for planning consent is lessened, i.e. less likely to be subject to subsequent legal challenge. This was clearly not the case with Mynydd y Gwair.

        Secondly, planning is a quasi-judicial function of local government. Councillors who take part in decision making will have been trained in the requirements of planning law and the consequences of their actions in committee. Councillor Richard has been around long enough to know the rules.

        He was advised to leave the meeting. He was not forced to do so. However he knew that staying and participating would have implications. These same rules apply to everyone, not just Ioan Richard. The difference is that he decided to make a fuss about the situation.

      •  

        If you knew Ioan Richard, you’d pick on him.

  21.  

    @Andy

    Predetermination and “prejudicial interests” are one and the same thing. The point is that the guidance contained in the “Code of Conduct” is now effectively out of date.

    Good to get back on topic without being pulled off by LaaBaa Party trolls…

    •  

      Wrong. ‘Predetermination’ is one of the circumstances which make a planning decision made by a Local Planning Authority challengeable. Personal and prejudicial interests only apply in respect of individuals. Recommend you stick to toy town politics in Gorseinon.

      •  

        @Andy

        This is my understanding of “Predetermination”. It’s laid out in the document you yourself link to for Jeff Jones below. The new Bill makes clear that:

        “A number of provisions will apply to both Wales and England. These include:

        ensuring that councillors are not prevented from taking part in decisions where they have expressed a view on related issues (―Predetermination)”

        And seeing as you recognize my name, why don’t you show the courage of your convictions and share yours 🙂

  22.  

    Andy should read the briefing note provided by MPs regarding the Localism Act 2011. This is a direct quote ” The Localism Act 2011 will abolish the concept of predetermination from July 1st 2012. Councillors will still have to have an open mind but previous actions will not be evidence that they do not so so.” Given that the intention of Parliament was to give councillors and particularly local councillors the right to speak on issues which concern the community they represent, no judge I would argue would now grant a JR on the grounds of predetermination. Even before the Localism Act and Mr Justice Collins judgement ( which can be found in briefing notes issues by the now defunct Sandards Board for England ) there was also the famous judgement by Lord Wolff regarding a planning application concerning a district council in Derbyshire where Labour county councillors who also sat on the district council planning committee voted against a planning application after a Labour Group decision at county level to oppose the development. The developer went to JR and lost. Whatever ones views on wind farms anyone who believes in democracy should be appalled when a democratically elected representative is advised by an unelected officer not to take part in any decision of the council. What is doubly ironic ,of course , is that the issue of personal or prejuducial interest does not apply to members of Parliament!

  23.  

    This Blog Site has just been drawn to my attention. I would like to make a response to those on this Blog who claim I am the only one making a fuss about not being able to participate in the Mynydd y Gwair Planning Committee meeting. On the contrary I am the only one not making a fuss about my situation. I took the Legal advice properly from Council’s leading professional and competent Legal Team. Of course it greatly dismayed me, but I have acted properly in all this. If I wanted other advice I would have had to go to an independent leading QC Counsel Barrister who would have charged me a four £ figure fee just for another opinion that could have been the same or contrary, and if contrary then Npower with all its huge reserves of money (from our £ subsidies) would have gone to the High Court for a Judicial Review. I am grateful to all the amateur people who have given their “legal” opinions and advice but these well meaning amateurs would not stand up to the scrutiny of a High Court Judicial Review.
    As to the anonymous critics of myself – the word “anonymous” says it all!

  24.  

    I think we should give up politics in Swansea and revert to slings and arrows in Mawr as we are on higher ground!

    •  

      Yes, I was tipped off a few days ago, but asked to stay schtum. Excellent news, and with the subsidies now removed I’ll be surprised if they pursue this plan. Though I was also told that to help further the project two local farms had been bought at inflated prices, so they’re stuck with them. All in all, Mynydd y Gwair could turn out to be very costly for the Duke of Beaufort. Good.

  25.  

    After two public enquiries, a court of appeal hearing and a judicial review Gwenllian Elias, Mynydd y Gwair Wind Farm Development manager for RWE Innogy, despite the recent outcome wants to resubmit a new application! When will this lot take no for an answer and stop treating the people who live and work in the area with utter contempt which they have no doubt shown over the years – Disgraceful!. Nobody who lives in the area wants this development. At the recent public enquiry RWE could find nobody local to support their case. They relied on outsiders!

  26.  

    Now you know why Gower voted Tory and the sooner Labour are kicked out of the Assembly the better for Wales and hopefully wind hugger Plaid Cymru leader will disappear into our Lagoon in Swansea too. Mynnydd y Gwair will always be protected by farmers and locals from scheming outsiders using Wales to build their careers then jumping ship with inside knowledge. RWE uses outsiders to quote figures that are wildly inaccurate. Do you think 24 years of protest is sustained by Ioan Richard and a minority of locals! We have our communities at the heart not profits and will not be bullied.

Ok, you’ve read what I think, now what do you have to say?