South Lanarkshire COALcil » Uncategorized » Campaigners hand South Lanarkshire Council a formal complaint over handling of opencast application

Campaigners hand South Lanarkshire Council a formal complaint over handling of opencast application

Campaigners and community members have today issued South Lanarkshire Council a formal complaint [1] over their handing of the Glentaggart East opencast coal mine application for 4 million tonnes of coal extraction over an area of 350ha in the Douglas Valley. The mine would be the fourth in the area and encircle communities such as Douglas and Glespin with mining operations, lying just a mile downwind of Douglas Primary School.

South Lanarkshire Council planning department are accused of deliberately excluding communities from participation in the Planning Committee meeting at which the decision to approve the Glentaggart East mine was made, which took place on 13th December, and for failing to carry out their duty to the public.

David Grey said: “We have 5 detailed and well-documented instances in the lead up to the Glentaggart East decision where Council employees such as Donald Wilkins, Minerals Planning Officer, have failed to carry out their duties or outright lied to us about this application. The COuncil even went so far as to create a whole new Planning Committee meeting date in December, not long after we’d been assured the meeting would take place in November or January, but most likely in January. The Council ignored our last representation and completely pulled the wool over our eyes – its disgraceful and shows how far South Lanarkshire Council are willing to go to help developers and deceive communities”.

Fiona Reed added: “We’re calling for a full council determination hearing for this application where members of the community are given the oppotunity to participate, we’re calling for an independent review into South Lanarkshire Council’s Planning Department and a full, unequivocal appology from them for how they’ve handled this and treated us. If we don’t get what we want we’ll be taking it to the next stage – it’s time for planners to be held accountable for their actions. South Lanarkshire COALcil [2] have shown their true colours once again, and they’re still flying the Scottish Coal flag.”

Notes to editors:

[1] Formal Complaint to South Lanarkshire Council

To: Colin McDowall, Chief Executive of Enterprise Resources, South Lanarkshire Council

Dear Colin McDowall and South Lanarkshire Council,

I am writing to make a formal complaint about the way in which you handled application CL/11/0198 for an opencast coal mine at Glentaggart East. This complaint relates to the way in which the decision was made, and directly to the Planning Department and Minerals Planning Officer Donald Wilkins for the way they handled the application.

What we have experienced through this application is the complete exclusion from the decision-making process, with South Lanarkshire Council Planning Department making every possible effort to ensure that a decision was made without our participation. This only serves to further highlight to us the disgraceful way in which the planning process as it is interpreted by South Lanarkshire Council, and how far from the aims of SPP it has strayed in terms of genuine community involvement and an open, honest and fair planning process.

We have highlighted below specific instances of suspected malpractice on the part of the Planning Department. These, however, only tell the part of the story that is easily documented, and don’t speak of the treatment that members of the local community receive at community liaison meetings and over the phone when it comes to South Lanarkshire Council Planning Department, and the degree of contempt that is held for objectors to opencast mining in the area.

1. Donald Wilkins (Minerals Planning Officer & Case Officer for CL/11/0198) informed us that the application would go to Planning Committee meeting either on 22nd November or 24th January as there was no meeting scheduled for December. As it turned out, a new meeting date was created after we were informed of the above, and the decision was made on the 13th December. We only found out by accident that the decision had been made on the 15th December. We were therefore misinformed by Donald Wilkins, the very person who is supposed to be the contact point within the council for members of the public requiring information on the planning application
2. The Officer’s Report (that recommended approval) was listed on page 16 of 21 on the Council’s planning portal, with the date 25th November next to it, meaning that documents weren’t in chronological order and that there was no way of knowing that the report had been written and that the application was due to be determined at a Planning Committee Meeting on 13th December
3. SNH’s final consultation response was only uploaded to the planning portal on 15th December, two days after the committee meeting had taken place, and 3 weeks after it had been received by the Council, meaning that members of the public could not have known that all the required information for the determination of the application had been received by the Council weeks before
4. We received no response to the submission to the Council of our second representation sent on 29th November dealing specifically with ecological implications and a response to additional information submitted by Scottish Coal, which would have been the appropriate time to inform us that the application was going to planning committee in December. Further still, Donald Wilkins told us that representations would be accepted up to two weeks prior to the committee meeting date, which was not the case
5. The Officers Report was seemingly in the process of being compiled before Scottish Coal had submitted their revised Indicative Site Layout, which was uploaded to the planning portal on the 2nd February. The drafting of the report before all of the required information is available to the officer leads us to believe that the decision was a foregone conclusion.

In response to this formal complaint, we are asking for the following:

1. A formal apology for the way in which this application was handled
2. A full council pre-determination hearing for this application, that recognises that the decision for approval of application CL/11/0198 at the last Planning Committee Meeting was disingenuous and therefore void, where members of the community and objectors are given the opportunity to participate and address the council
3. An independent inquiry into South Lanarkshire Council Planning Department and the way in which decisions on planning applications are made.

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