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Torridge says ‘no’ to Atlantic Array

PUBLISHED: 22:38 23 September 2013 | UPDATED: 22:40 23 September 2013

Proposals for the Atlantic Array took centre stage at tonight's meeting at Bideford Town Hall.

Proposals for the Atlantic Array took centre stage at tonight's meeting at Bideford Town Hall.

Archant

Full council gives a resounding ‘thumbs down’ despite planning committee vote to ‘raise no objections’.

TORRIDGE District Councillors voted not to support proposals for the Atlantic Array wind farm during a highly-charged meeting in Bideford tonight (Monday).

Less than two weeks after the council’s own planning committee voted to raise no objections to the scheme on planning grounds, tonight’s decision by the full council was met by cheers from the public gallery.

Clenched fists gave way to high-fives when councillors voted 15 to eight in favour of an amended motion proposed by Councillor Andy Boyd.

Cllr Boyd was one of a dozen members to voice their opinions on RWE npower’s 240-turbine scheme.

He said: “There are only nine members on our planning committee and I don’t think this is a strong enough case to be classed as a response from Torridge District Council.

“I am very keen for this council to make a full council response in the negative.”

Cllr Jane Whittaker said: “Nine people made a decision on the plans committee and there are 36 people on this council. I think we should all be able to vote.

Cllr Chris Leather, who brought an original notice of motion to tonight’s meeting, said: “I’m sorry I’ve had to bring this to full council but I value free speech and the inclusive nature of debate.

“We have never had a full council debate on this and I’d be interested to hear the views of fellow councillors.”

Cllr Peter Christie, the only councillor to take the floor in favour of the array, was loudly booed from the public gallery as he continued to speak well after his three minutes of allotted time were up.

While the will of the full council was greater than that of the planning committee, the original decision to raise no objections will still form part of the council’s recommendation to the Planning Inspectorate.

Council solicitor Ken Miles advised members that the resolution of the planning committee had already been submitted as the formal response of the council and could not be altered, although it could be added to at a later date.

The Planning Inspector will use the responses to make a formal recommendation to the Secretary of State, who will then decide whether to grant a development consent order.

But tonight’s debate will help inform that decision and add bluster to the sails of campaigners fighting the giant scheme.

Many had packed into the town hall to make their feelings know to councillors but only five were permitted to speak due to council rules.

A motion to allow more members of the public to speak was defeated and there were ugly scenes before the meeting when one man was ejected by police after being denied the chance to take the floor.

Speaking after the meeting, Penny Mills of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) said: “This was the right result and the council should have come to this decision two weeks ago.

“This proposal is the biggest development in this area in living memory – it’s so important.

“It’s not a planning decision and it should have gone to full council in the first place.”

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