Public speaking at meetings

Anti-windfarm protesters at the Drone Hill turbine site on Coldingham Moor
Anti-windfarm protesters at the Drone Hill turbine site on Coldingham Moor
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For the past six months members of the public have been able to address SBC’s planning committee and the council now want to assess how the system is working.

Scottish Borders Council’s head of planning, Brian Frater, has contacted a number of people who took the opportunity to comment on particular planning applications, including George Matthews, who spoke against an application for two wind turbines to be erected on Coldingham Moor, close to the 22 operational turbines already generating electricity at Drone Hill.

Writing to Mr Matthews, Mr Frater said: “Your response will help us decide whether to continue with public speaking at committee and if so how the current arrangements might be improved.”

However, they may not have bargained for the response they got from Mr Matthews, who was less than impressed by the whole planning meeting process, when councillors voted in favour of granting planning permission for the turbines.

Mr Matthews’ submission to the council read: “It felt as if many of the councillors, especially the SNP, voted on party lines and not on the applications demerits.

“My local councillor left the meeting. He said to me in private that he left because he had an interest in the application as he was a neighbour. He did not declare his interest to the committee and his leaving was not fair as it left us without councillor representation at the meeting. His comments and vote could have changed the decision.

“The council presenter was not restricted to six minutes as we were, and if there had been more of us wanting to speak, six minutes or more would be required for each speaker.

“I do not consider that the points/objections that I made were given adequate consideration or investigation by the officer or the councillors.

“The application should have been continued for further investigation especially in relation to noise nuisance.

“The councillors, to me, did not care what happened as it did not affect them directly. They need a lot more training and advice.

“Over and above this email request for feedback you must please, please request to meet with us to discuss all the short comings of your planning systems. We can help you improve; it is badly needed.

“You did not have a professionally qualified noise person at the meeting to advise the committee, so how could they then go on to grant the application on such a basis?

“I could say a lot more, but I hope you will meet with us very soon to talk.

“The public speaking arrangements were very poor. I have tinnitus and have lost 50% of my hearing and even with my hearing aids I could not hear 90% of what was being said by the committee or officials. I complained and microphones were supplied to some of the committee, however the microphones were very poor and did not improve the sound quality at all.

“You urgently need a proper and adequate public address system for all the people at the committee meetings.

“I was at a tremendous disadvantage and I feel that my human rights/needs were not dealt with or provided for adequately.”