People turning up for planning meeting shocked to find police and security there - but council says it was for health and safety reasons.

CLAIMS of ‘an iron curtain’ and ‘totalitarian state’ have been levelled at Torridge District Council after police and security guards were drafted in to manage Thursday’s planning meeting.

People turning up to hear a number of controversial planning applications were angered when prevented from entering the committee room.

The council said because large numbers were expected and the room could only hold 50, officers and staff were there to allow people in for the application they wished to hear, while the rest were asked to wait in the foyer.

Plans on the agenda included four applications for single wind turbines, erection of an ‘agri-centre’ at Holsworthy and a new ride at The Big Sheep at Abbotsham.

Penny Mills, chairman of the Torridge Campaign for the protection of Rural England, said people were ‘shocked and angry’ at the police presence: “There were police and security everywhere, on every door, people had their bags search, it was completely over the top.

“To paraphrase Churchill, it seemed as if the iron curtain had descended around Torridge. It was very uncomfortable and should have been adjourned until they found a bigger venue.”

But council leader Barry Parsons suggested there had been trouble at a previous meeting:

“There has been an allegation a planning applicant for a wind turbine was assaulted by protestors at the last plans committee,” he said.

“We needed to make sure nothing like that could happen. The council has a duty of care to its members, its officers and to the public”

They were not aware of how many might attend until a few days before and there was not enough time to re-advertise the meeting, so decided to ‘err on the side of caution’. He said the cost to the authority was ‘less than £300’.

* The ‘agri-centre’ plan at Holsworthy was approved, as was a single 34.2 metre turbine for Ham Farm at Alverdiscott. But the Big Sheep scheme was deferred, as were plans for a single turbine at Durpley Farm, Stibb Cross while single turbines plans for Vaglefield Farm at Holsworthy and Huxhill farm at Weare Giffard.