Council in hot water again

Village hero Shirley Giles who is fighting a planned gasifier power station at Sutton Bridge. ANL-140917-095007001
Village hero Shirley Giles who is fighting a planned gasifier power station at Sutton Bridge. ANL-140917-095007001
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Bungling South Holland District Council is in hot water for a “useless” response to an official complaint about its handling of a revised plan for a massive power station at Sutton Bridge.

Village hero Shirley Giles (74), the great-granny who defeated the council in the High Court after it unlawfully gave planning consent to EnergyPark Sutton Bridge, fired off official complaints to the local government watchdog, the Ombudsman, and to district council chief executive Anna Graves, over the council’s handling of the revised application.

The council replied to Mrs Giles in a letter dated September 9 – saying it would respond “within 20 working days, in this case by 7 August 2014”.

As well as the dates mix-up, the council failed to put a stamp on the letter so Mrs Giles, who walks with a stick, had to go to the Post Office and pay £1.53 to collect it.

She said: “To be honest with you, I can’t find words that can actually describe them any more. Incompetent? I don’t know, really. Absolutely useless? Definitely. I am lost for words. It’s absolute rubbish that they keep sending out.”

Mrs Giles said a second resident who complained received identical treatment – and the council is still investigating how it first offered villager Nina Wells the chance to speak about the EDF gas-fired power station at the August 27 planning committee and then withdrew consent on the night.

The pensioner says she emailed Anna Graves on September 16 and received a message to say she was “out of office until the 15th”.

Mrs Giles asked: “How much worse can they get? The worst thing they ever did was to go in with Breckland council – things went rapidly down hill after that.”

A council spokesman said: “We have started an internal investigation to find out why the lady in question was charged. The incorrect date in the letter was an error and we will be contacting her to apologise and inform her of the correct information.”

More than 600 residents voted in a local referendum – a parish poll – to have both proposed power stations decided by public inquiries, but the result was ignored by the council.

The planning committee raised no objections to the EDF plan and is due to consider the EnergyPark project at a later date.

Mrs Giles won her case in the High Court over a key issue concerning sustainability and the council had to shell out £10,500 in council tax payers’ money for legal costs.

The pensioner says it was agreed then that she would take part in any future decision-making process but she tells Anna Graves that “this has not happened”.

The wood-fuelled power station will burn 420,000 tonnes a year.

In her official complaints, Mrs Giles lists a string of issues that haven’t been answered – including where that wood will come from.