Reeves Hill Wind Farm Appeal DISMISSED!

We are delighted to announce that, today, Planning Inspector Louise Crosby dismissed the appeal (see attached) by Bolsterstone and Sir Simon Gourlay against Herefordshire Council’s refusal to discharge Hydrology Condition 14 relating to the consented application DCNW2008/1289/F. This means that the planning permission for Reeves Hill Wind Farm has now definitively lapsed and that the windfarm cannot be built.

We would like to thank all of you in Stonewall Hill Conservation Group for your generous and unfailing support during this nine-year long struggle to protect Stonewall Hill. This is one of the most beautiful parts of the Welsh Marches whose peace, solitude and magnificent unspoiled views are easily accessible to all members of the public. Our group has certainly lived up to its name.

SHCG will continue to fight to ensure the continued and long-term protection of Stonewall Hill and neighbouring areas of this borderland countryside. We will be in touch again soon with plans for the future.

CONGRATULATIONS TO YOU ALL!

Bolsterstone Submit Last-Minute Appeal Against Herefordshire’s Decision – its all about hydrology

Dear SHCG Supporter,

SHCG is disappointed that Bolsterstone Plc. has made an 11th hour Appeal against Herefordshire’s refusal to discharge Condition 14 of the Reeves Hill Wind Farm Permission. The consultation time just happens to coincide with the Christmas period!

If Sir Simon looses this Appeal, he will have lost consent for RHWF.

The permission said that development had to begin within 3 years, which means by 25th April 2015. Condition 14 is about water management and is one of several conditions which had to be discharged before development began.

Bolsterstone’s Application, to discharge the Conditions is dated 27th March 2015. Herefordshire had not still decided whether to approve by 24th April and so Sir Simon made a start to his wind farm development to prevent his permission expiring. You will all have seen SHCG’s dramatic aerial photos of this. He hoped that Herefordshire would discharge the conditions later, with retrospective effect so he would not lose his permission – a risky and well-tried strategy which sometimes succeeds.

Herefordshire consulted a drainage expert about the Developer’s Surface & Ground Water Management Plan. The Drainage Consultant Report says they need to know the results of hydrology investigations before development begins. The Developer says their plan describes how they would do the investigations later, during construction, and that this is good enough. SHCG agrees with the Drainage Expert that Sir Simon should not get permission to carry on construction without proper safeguards, based on investigation rather than wishful thinking. Safeguards are essential to protect flooding over Stonewall Hill road, stop water run-off causing erosion of neighbours’ land and access to dwellings, and to stop pollution of neighbours’ private drinking water supplies.

Herefordshire took legal advice and told Bolsterstone that they would not discharge Condition 14 which says:

Before development is commenced a detailed surface water and ground water management plan to include e details of associated drainage and sediment control and a timetable for implementation shall be submitted by the developer/operator to the Local Planning Authority and approved in writing by the Local Planning Authority. The scheme shall be implemented as approved.

The Planning Inspectorate appeal reference is APP/W1850/W/15/3137440. The dates for submissions are given on the Planning Inspectorate website but the relevant  documents, with Herefordshire’s reasons for refusal, the Developer’s Grounds for Appeal, and all correspondence from all other parties, can only be found on the Herefordshire Council Planning Portal .

SHCG’s submission and other third party comments must be in by 31st December. The Planning Inspector will have already seen the many letters which SHCG and supporters have written since the application to discharge conditions was made on 27th March 2015. We must not waste the Inspector’s time by repeating ourselves.

New comments should be about why the Developer’s Surface and Ground Water Management Plan is not good enough to discharge Condition 14. Please submit these direct to the Planning Inspectorate <mailto:teampl@pins.gsi.gov.uk> or send them to SHCG to incorporate into our submission.

The Appeal will be decided on written evidence (not at a public hearing) sometime in the New Year.

SHCG will fight this appeal and we know we can count on your support.

Gourlay Withdraws Application to Powys for Access to RHWF

On 14 Jul 2015, at 10:48, Steve Packer (CSP – Development Control) wrote:

Dear Mrs Hugh- Jones,

I have, this morning, received a formal request from the applicant, through his agent, that P/2012/0573 be withdrawn pending an appeal against the Herefordshire decision that the wind farm approval has lapsed.

I will, therefore, be cancelling the presentation to Committee on the 30th July and notifying other key objectors of the change in circumstances.

Thanking you and the Stonewall Conservation Group for your input over the years.

Best regards,

Steve Packer

SHCG will await events.

We know we can count on your support if an Appeal is lodged and we will keep you informed.

Any future application to Powys for Access to RHWF will inevitably have the same direct and cumulative adverse environmental impacts as P/2012/0573

Herefordshire Council Stands Firm.

On 08 July, Mark Tansley, the Planning Officer dealing with Reeves Hill Wind Farm emailed SHCG saying “I can now advise that following further legal advice we have confirmed our stance to the Developer”.

On 22 May 2015, Herefordshire Council advised Sir Simon Gourlay that his ‘technical start’ of 24th April was unlawful because the Council could not discharge all the necessary pre-commencement conditions. This decision means that Planning Permisssion ran out on 25th April.

The Developers’ agent, Michael Phillips of Dulas, has been trying to persuade Herefordshire to reconsider but this has not worked. It is now too late for the Developers to challenge Herefordshire’s decision through Judicial Review but they still have until the end of October should they decide to lodge a Planning Appeal.

Meanwhile Powys Council have announced that the meeting to consider access to Reeves Hill Wind Farm will be held at the Council Chambers, Llandrindod Wells on 30 July.

Herefordshire Permission for Reeves Hill Wind Farm has EXPIRED

The End of the Road

Herefordshire Permission for Reeves Hill Wind Farm has EXPIRED

From: “Tansley, Mark” <mttansley@herefordshire.gov.uk>

Subject: RE: DNCW/2008/1289/F Reeves Hill Wind Farm. Discharge of conditions after Permission Expiry Date

Date: 22 May 2015 12:49:58 GMT+01:00
“I can advise that I have now written/emailed the developer to advise that as the Council was unable to discharge all of the necessary conditions required prior to commencement that the permission was not lawfully commenced and has as a consequence lapsed.”

a big, big thank you to all SHCG supporters – it took seven years but we did it!!

Herefordshire: Gates on the Road to Nowhere? Powys: New Information

Herefordshire Council is still taking legal advice on whether or not Sir Simon Gourlay’s recently constructed track and work compound will count as the ‘technical start’ that will save his 3-year consent from running out of time. Work on site has now ceased with one digger gone and the other parked up by the borrow pit – or almost ceased. A few days ago two steel gates were put up across the new track (photo). Let’s hope these are gates on the road to nowhere.

Meanwhile, on the Powys side, the Developer’s have just submitted a revised version of their Construction Ecology Management Plan together with an Ecological Constraints Report. Steve Packer has said that he anticipates that the new documentation will be formally advertised on the 22nd May with a consultation period of three weeks.

If SHCG supporters have any critical objections to these documents please send them to Steve Packer at <steve.packer@powys.gov.uk> with a copy to <ch306@cam.ac.uk>.

Sir Simon Gourlay Begins Construction Without Herefordshire’s Consent.

At 08.00 on Fri. 24 April Sir Simon Gourlay began construction of an access track and works compound on Stonewall Hill.  With clipboard in hand, to the tune of singing skylarks, the landowner directed works as two giant Komatsu diggers ripped up the grassy topsoil. He had already been excavating in a borrow pit for the past 6 days and had plenty of stone ready. He was digging below the water table which risks compromising neighbours’ private drinking water supplies, something the conditions were specially designed to avoid.

Gourlay’s precipitate action was designed to ensure that a ‘technical start’ on Reeves Hill Wind Farm, before the expiry of planning permission on 25 April, would ensure the viability of his project.

Hereford Council bent over backwards to assist Gourlay in his plans. Setting a deadline of midnight on Thurs. 23 April for consultation over Gourlay’s application to discharge conditions, the Council then announced their intention to come to a decision the very next day so that consent could be issued within hours – in time for Gourlay to begin construction but not in time for proper procedure. SHCG had already complained that one working day was not enough to consider the representations properly, consult colleagues, make a decision and issue permission in time for the diggers to start, and it turned out that this was so. But, just as we had expected, impetuous Sir Simon had already jumped the gun.

Late on Thursday night, SHGC sent in a detailed objection to the developer’s application (link) and, the day before, had already complained to the Council over Gourlay’s unauthorised use of a borrow pit to extract stone, threatening private water supplies. Back in 2010, the Developer, Mike Corker of Bolsterstone Plc, had written to the Council confirming that no borrow pits would be used.
On Friday morning SHCG made several attempts to complain about the developer’s unauthorised start on construction but, needless to say, no one was available in the Council’s planning office. A plea to an Enforcement Officer at 11.30 came to nothing.  At 16.34 an email with photographic evidence finally produced the following response from Mark Tansley, the case officer involved: “I’m advised that the council is still awaiting legal advice on the matter and expect to resolve early next week.  I will get someone to site on Monday if at all possible to record what has taken place”.

On Saturday morning SHCG secretary David Johnstone took Stephen Hugh-Jones up in an airoplane to take more photographic evidence (photo 1, photo 2, photo 3) of the work on site.

By Monday 27th April, permission will have expired.  The Council will have to decide about the status of this unauthorised start which flouts their planning conditions.  As their own website says: ‘The council is responsible for making sure that development should not be undertaken without planning permission first being granted and that conditions attached to permissions are fully complied with.’

Herefordshire were too busy picking up the bits on Friday to come and see what was happening on their forgotten North-West Frontier. We now have significant environmental damage in Herefordshire with absolutely no certainty that the Developer can ever deliver his turbines and complete his wind farm.

This legal and environmental mess arises from the toxic combination of a ruthless, intimidating developer and a Council that does not think through its responsibilities.

28 April Planning Meeting Cancelled

Steve Packer, Senior Planning Officer dealing with P/2012/0573 has announced that the meeting scheduled for 28 April to consider access to the proposed Reeves Hill Wind farm has been cancelled.   This is because Natural Resources Wales are not satisfied with the applicant’s Construction Ecology Management Plan. Prior to this, SHCG produced an extended critique of the CEMP and communicated our misgivings to NRW.  Many of our points are reflected in a report sent to NRW by Powys and in the NRW report then sent to Powys.

Dulas has indicated that they will submit a new CEMP addressing the shortcomings identified by NRW by 24 April.  The revised CEMP will then go out to public consultation and a new Planning Committee Meeting will be scheduled.

Hectoring Letter from Gourlay Reveals Powys Minded to Approve

On a recent visit to inspect Powys Planning files, SHCG found a letter from Sir Simon Gourlay to Gwilym Davies of Powys Planning which reveals that, over one year ago, Powys had already informed Gourlay that they were minded to approve application P/2012/0573 for access to the proposed Reeves Hill Wind Farm.

To see the full text of Gourlay’s letter. The crucial section reads as follows:

‘Just over fifteen months ago, Michael Phillips of Dulas and I sat with you, the second case officer, in your office and you indicated that you couldn’t see any reason why it should not go forward with a recommendation for approval. You admitted that it had taken a long time to get thus far and that we should aim for the April meeting. That was April 2014. At the end of January, fifth case officer Mr Packer inherited from Mathews Griffiths a 53 page report that ended with a recommendation for approval. He indicated that he wanted to edit it, something that he has already had a month to work on, and in the absence of any significant developments must surely be able very quickly to finish. I am sure he can, for if he cannot he would be demonstrating the sort of procrastination that consistently, with the exception of the brief period of Mr Griffith’s stewardship, has so frustrated the applicant over the last two and a half years.

Before Christmas and the subsequent further January postponement, a very experienced planning consultant – himself an ex-planning officer – described the saga of this application as the most shambolic he had ever witnessed. If the application does not go for decision by the Committee on the 9th April, the whole story will be referred to your internal complaints procedure and, if necessary, thence to the Planning Ombudsman’.

The letter is a prime example of Sir Simon Gourlay’s hectoring and bullying approach. It is clear from the planning files that, time and again, when SHCG has sent submissions to Powys, their response has typically been to send them straight to the developer for comment and then to accept the developer’s opinion instead of studying the submissions and forming their own independent view as to the merits of the case.

SHCG has recently sent a barrister’s opinion regarding Powys’ approach to this application.

We trust that, in future, Powys will adopt a more robustly independent stance.

Developer Applies to Herefordshire Council for Consent for Discharge Conditions – so that construction of Reeves Hill Wind Farm can begin without permission from Powys for the Access.

On April 2nd, notices were posted on Stonewall Hill announcing a public consultation on Sir Simon Gourlay’s application to Herefordshire Council to discharge conditions attached to the consent for his proposed Reeves Hill Wind Farm.  The deadline for consultation is Thursday 23rd April.  This leaves Herefordshire Council one day to consider consultation responses and issue their approval – if they see fit.   

Gourlay has written to Powys that he intends to make a ‘technical start’ on the development before his consent runs out on Saturday 25 April.   The new application to discharge conditions says that construction will begin in mid-April. This is before the application will be decided.

The relevant documents can be found by clicking here.  A careful reading shows that the application is seriously flawed.  At this stage we do not need a massive and general public response to the application.  However, we would urge any SHCG supporters with knowledge of Ecology and Hydrology, to submit detailed critiques of the Surface and Ground Water Management Plan, the Private Water Supply Protection Plan, the Ecological Mitigation Statement, and the Ecological Management and Monitoring Plan.  You may have professional friends who could help you with this.

Please address your responses to Mark Tansley, Case Officer by email to or by post to Planning Services, PO Box 230, Hereford HR1 2ZB.

These are some of the important points that SHCG has found:

* The Ecological Management Statement says Phase 1 construction will begin in mid-April. This will be without permitted Access from Powys (won’t happen before 28.04.15 – if then) and no permission for the discharge of the Herefordshire conditions (can’t happen before 24.04.15).

* Only one of 6 crucial plans for the construction of site accesses and hydrology mitigation measures is included in the application so no-one knows what is going to be constructed, apparently starting week of 13th April.

* The developer has no proper permission to start construction. Herefordshire’s section 73 permission to adapt the site entrances so they would conform to Powys requirements (Non-Technical Summary point 5) was revoked by Herefordshire Council.

* The travel plan envisages all traffic coming directly up Llanshay Lane from the A 4113, instead of via the new private haulage road.

* The ecological surveys are mostly 8 years out of date and are not valid for base-line data.

* Phase 1 construction will not be preceded by base-line surveys for protected species, such as nesting birds and bats. SHCG believes this is unlawful and will result in distorted base-line data affecting protected natural species populations in Herefordshire and Powys

* There is no evidence that an ecological clerk of works has been appointed to oversee Phase 1 construction.

* No formal ground investigation has been done to inform mitigation of ground water and surface-water run-off and there is no assessment of impact on watercourses.

* The Private Water Supplies Protection Plan does not follow the recommendations of the Environment Agency and the previous undertaking by the Developer to investigate the depth of the aquifer by observing boreholes during the autumn through to spring prior to construction.

* There is not enough time (one day!) for Herefordshire to duly consider responses to this complex application before issuing permission under delegated powers.

SHCG needs to raise £10,000 for this final stage of our effort to stop Reeves Hill Wind Farm.

All our hard work is voluntary and all day-to-day expenses are met from SHCG supporters’ own pockets. Funds will be spent exclusively on legal and planning consultancy costs.

Please help us if you can. Every contribution counts.

There are several ways you can make a donation:

* Donate cash/cheque/online directly into the SHCG Appeal Fund bank account. Lloyds Bank: account no: 00489906; sort code 30 94 14

* Use PayPal on the SHCG website at shcg.co.uk

* Send your donation to our treasurer Andrew Knight, The Nook, Myndd Road, Norton, Powys LD8 2EN.  Please make cheques payable to SHCG Appeal Fund.