Every journey starts with a few steps! It is said that there is more to be learned from our mistakes than from our successes!
South Hams District Council have a policy which commits them to learn from mistakes and complaints. The Winslade wind turbine case proved a rich source of ‘learning material’.
The SHDC policy about complaints is very clear. There is a commitment to use complaint information in a positive way to identify training requirements, improve processes, and share learning to prevent similar occurrences in the future. There is also a pledge to take measures to ensure that what is complained about does not happen again.
Councillors have the right to make planning decisions which are contrary to the officers’ professional advice. But, if they do, their decision must be based on an tive assessment of the material planning matters involved, and the weighting balance, which leads to their contrary decision, must be “clearly and convincingly” explained separately in the record of the application.
In discussing, and then determining a planning application, or other planning matters, Members must confine themselves to the planning merits of the case and the reasons for making a final decision should be clear and convincing, and supported by planning evidence.
If members wish to refuse an application against officer advice or impose additional conditions to a permission, the reasons for refusal or the additional conditions to be applied must be clearly stated at the time the propositions are moved at the meeting.
Old ‘corporate defensive habits’ die hard and the faults illustrated by the Winslade wind turbine case clearly demonstrate that there is some way to go before the SHDC can truly claim to be an “open, transparent and learning Council” or to have adopted all the lessons from the Winslade affair. They really have made a start down the ‘learning’ path. However, there is still some way to travel before the Council tax payers of the South Hams will recognise them as a truly open and “learning organisation”.
First published in 2018 following the Winslade Public Inquiry.