Councillor’s duty to discuss

I wish to respond to a letter published last Thursday, December 5, and headed Turbines spoil the landscape, from Mrs Heather Lister, of Rothbury.

As a clerk to a parish council herself, Mrs Lister should be well aware that, like all parish councillors, I am bound by a very rigorous set of rules known as the Code of Conduct with extensive penalties for breaching any part of it. Parish clerks are not similarly bound.

One requirement is to ensure that councillors do not predetermine any decision that they subsequently vote upon and this rule is scrupulously observed on all occasions in Belford none more particularly so than when planning applications are to be considered.

It is also essential that all of the relevant facts are brought to the attention of a meeting for consideration and a proper balance of the pros and cons are put before any decision is taken. To do otherwise could lay a parish council open to challenge as to the adequacy of its decision-making.

At our most recent planning meeting, where the Belford Burn windfarm application was to be determined, much discussion, quite rightly, took place on the high level of local opposition to the plans.

Part of the proposal for the windfarm included the creation of a village community fund worth several millions of pounds to this village over the course of its projected 25-year lifespan.

I thought it apposite to remind the meeting of this potential benefit and I still hold steadfast and aver to this view – Mrs Lister may not agree – but to omit any reference to it from our considerations would, in my view, have been an unacceptable piece of censorship by omission and lead to criticism of our decision making.

As she says in her letter ‘Mr O’Connell is an old friend of ours’.

‘Old friends’ usually give you a ring – they do not address a sardonic comment through the columns of a leading local newspaper towards a Parish Councillor trying to do his unpaid ‘bit’for his local community.

Geoff O’Connell,

Vice-Chairman,

Belford Parish Council