Thursday, March 25, 2010

Highland Council - should Councillors that think wind farms per se are a bad idea be banned from planning meetings?

Senior tier Councillors are not allowed to give their views on a particular planning application prior to the meeting that decides each application. That can be uncomfortable for some when constituents fail to grasp this important part of the process, Councillors can be seen as indifferent or even siding with the developers by perhaps not being seen to help people in their area against an unwanted or unsuitable development. It can seem strange but it has its legal merits apparently.

Now what if you have a party or personal philosophy against something. There are no Green members on the council but if there were would it not be democratically acceptable for such a Councillor to have a party position against new airports or motorways? If that were the case surely he or she will still be allowed to attend planning meetings discussing the like, likewise SNP Councillors that oppose nuclear power. If there were suddenly an application for a nuclear power station on the Carse then one would hope that they would not be precluded from the meeting that decided such a hypothetical application's fate? Reading Tory activist Liz Gilchrist's blog I am alerted to the fact that Highland Councillors who think wind farms are a bad thing have been told to stay away from planning meetings that decide the fate of wind farms. Liz writes:

'Democracy has gone to the wall. A sad day when Highland Council can silence Councillors so readily.
They are elected by the people to voice the concerns of the people and show signs being silenced by a dictatorship.
Does this mean that anyone who has voiced an opinion before being elected will be excluded from hearings?'

Liz is right. Does this mean that every time a politician has to make a decision at a planning meeting then their past statements or their party's position on anything remotely concerning the subject will be scrutinised to find a reason to prevent that member attending a meeting? If those that are against wind farms are banned then surely those that support them or belong to parties or groups that support them should be banned?

You can read Liz Gilchrist's article here. And the Press and Journal states:

'The silencing of two Highland Councillors could leave the authority’s system of decision-making in chaos, according to political observers.' More here.
Update - more discussion on the APT blog.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The point is well made. If those that have spoken against wind farms in the past or belong to a party with an anti-wind farm stance are to be excluded from the Chamber, then surely the corollary is true; those who have spoken in support of wind farms or who belong to parties with a pro-wind farm stance must also be excluded. What is the Highland Council's position on this?