It’s been glaringly obvious for some time that South Lanarkshire Council will do anything to help Scottish Coal mine the Douglas Valley – but the way that they sneaked this latest application through defies belief. Every means possible was used to ensure that no one except the Council knew that the decision on the 4 million tonne Glentaggart East application was going in front of the planning committee. Following a recommendation for approval signed off by Colin McDowell on 5th December, South Lanarkshire Council Planning Committee voted on Tuesday to accept the application.
So, how is it possible that an active campaign against the application and a clued-up community had no idea that the plan was going to be decided on only two days ago? First of all, Minerals Planning Officer Donald Wilkins lied when he informed us that the application would either go to planning committee in November 29th or January 24th as those were the only available upcoming dates. It was taken in good faith that the information he provided was accurate – we won’t be making that mistake again. Further still, he was working on the Officers Report – recommending the approval of the application – at least on the 27th November and only a couple of weeks after the misinformation about planning committee date had been given.
Secondly, the Officers Report was in the process of being compiled 5 days before the final site layout maps were submitted, and the final consultee response from SNH wasn’t even made publicly available such that anyone would have known that all the information necessary had been submitted. The Officers Report was concealed on page 16 of 21 on the Council’s online planning portal – apparently that’s just how the system works. But that also means that to find this information without happening upon it by accident you’d have to trawl through some 200 documents first.
The Planning Committee meeting appears not to have been advertised, nor was anyone that we know of informed that it was happening. Despite 232 letters of objection to the application, not a single person was given the opportunity to speak at the planning committee meeting. It seems that South Lanarkshire Council did everything they could to make sure that no one opposing the opencast was anywhere near the council offices when the decision was made.
And that’s just the way it happened – what about the report that lead the councillors to vote for the application? It is the usual apologism for opencast coal mining, but this time went further, saying that the whole of South Lanarkshire is an area of search for opencast coal, rendering policy that doesn’t highlight it as an area of recoverable coal deposits meaningless. Further still Colin McDowall even changed the nature of the application for the developers so that it would fit better:
“6.4.92 Policy MP36 of the MLP notes that there will be a presumption against extensions to mineral sites which were granted after the publication of the MLP in September 2002, unless the operator’s full intentions for the exploitation of the mineral deposit were set out in the original application. Whilst the application has been described by the applicant as an extension to the former Glentaggart Surface Coal Mine, the development proposal in fact represents the formation of a new surface coal mine. In addition, the former Glentaggart Surface Coal Mine was consented prior to the adoption of the South Lanarkshire Minerals Local Plan. On this basis, no presumption against the development exists as a result of Policy MP36.”
This basically translates to: “don’t say its an extension or we’ll have to reject it because of planning policy – we’ll say its a whole new mine instead”. Who is he actually working for and since when did planning officers change the terms of an application on behalf of a developer? Probably ever since there’s been big money in dirty developments.
Watch this space for future developments. South Lanarkshire COALcil has shown its true colours again, but the battle doesn’t end here.
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