Special Council Meeting
Thursday 29th January 2009, 10am, Bodlondeb
The first point on the agenda was whether we should ask the members of the public and press to leave the room. The advice from officers where that in any situation where Legal Advice had been given that should this advice become public knowledge that it could affect further legal proceedings.
As the council were the client then it could make the decision as to whether to hold the meeting in private. The view of some councillors was that as the advice was so strong against a judicial review that the any future legal proceedings would be unlikely and hence not affected. It was also felt that due to the nature of the subject that we should hold the meeting in public. Some councillors felt that the advice of officers should be taken and that the meeting be held in private. The vote was taken and the majority voted in having the meeting open to the public.
All councillors where happy that they had received sufficient time to review the report from Legal Counsel.
The Legal Counsel had produced a 23 page report detailing all the points of objection from the Council and also extra points provided by the Save Our Scenery group. The Counsel reports details each point and whether any of these points had a grounding for Judicial Review. I wont go into detail except to say that none of the points indicated that the Secretary of State had taken all points into consideration and there were no grounds for a Judicial Review.
The Legal Counsel did indicate that he was very disappointed in the quality of the Decision Letter from the Secretary of State, and felt that the report was below standard. But the decision was made legally.
In conclusion the Legal Counsel stated:
"It will be seen from the above that I am firmly of the view that, while I consider the DL (Decision Letter) to be well below the normal standard expected of such decisions, it is not sufficiently defective to breach the judicial standard for adequacy of reasons, and that a challenge would not succeed."
"I also conclude that there is insufficient material on which challenges based on a failure to take account of relevant consideration, of fettering of discretion, or of acting unreasonably. would succeed."
"I therefore reluctantly have to advise that there is little chance of a challenge being successful."
The conclusion of the report the proceeds with likely outcomes should any party decided to proceed with Judicial Review. The Conclusions details that even if used as a delaying tactic that due to the importance of renewable energy that any proceedings would be sped through and that if the would only delay by a matter of weeks instead of months. The report also states that should a Judicial Review succeed that in essence it would be a hollow victory as the likelihood would be that the Secretary State an re looking at the evidence would come up with the same conclusion.
Several people spoke on the subject, and there was an understanding that proceed to a Judicial Review would not be an appropriate cause of action. There where concerns with the process and that one person could make this decision and hence whether Democracy was taken away from the decision. It was suggested that people within political parties passed there comments through to MPs.
I spoke at the meeting the essence of which is repeated here:
"As a new member I have made my decision on the evidence that has been put before me, and my views on the Wind Farm itself where not important. As a newcomer to the authority but reviewing the information I believed that this authority has done its duty to the council tax papers.
Since the initial application in Nov 2005, the council has democratically decided to object to the development. This objection has remained throughout the process. Rather than seeing our decision today as a negative the council should actually be commended for it actions. But Conwy where the only 1 of 9 authorities that objected to the development.
I will go in to the detail of the Secretary of States report or that of the Legal Council but we can all see the recommendation not to proceed with a Judicial Review on all points.
I have concerns from the last meeting where the costs of the legal counsel could be easily accounted as we make £6K per day from £57M worth of investments held by the Council. Having since spoken with the Financial Officer I now understand why we have these investment and that the are all accounted for and ring fenced for future spend. And that also the revenue generated from these investments is accounted for in the budget and far from being available is used in the calculation for the £4m Savings needed next year and keeping the council tax increases to a minimum. I felt it was inappropriate without having knowing all the detail to suggest that the money was available to spend.
The concern that we all have and that the Legal Council questioned in his report was the potential impact on Tourism.
People will obviously want to report there disappointment in the decision of the secretary of State. But in the near future we will have to resist falling into the trap of talking ourselves down.
We have to turn (or spin!) this decision from disappointment to an opportunity.
I'm sure he tourism working party being set up by Cllr Goronwy should take this on board and look into ways of maximising this opportunity.
The Seascape is only one reason that people decide to visit Llandudno and the County of Conwy. What we need to do as an authority is to ensure the we get everything else right, to ensure that the visitors still want to visit the area, enjoy themselves and keep returning.
We have to promote the positives of this county and we need the help of the public (including the people of Save Our Scenery) and the Press to do this.
It is in all our interests to do this. We need to do our very best to ensure that this development does not have a negative impact on tourism.
In conclusion; this authority has done it duty, but we should not proceed with Judicial Review and I back the proposal not to proceed with Legal Action."
I'm sure my speech did not make any difference to the vote as the evidence was clear to see, but I felt there were points that needed to be made.
The vote was subsequently taken and was overwhelming in favour of recommending to Cabinet:
Not to proceed to Judicial Review.
4 councillors recorded their abstentions (Cllrs Lyon, Boyle, Tew and Howarth) arguing the end of the democratic process as the reason.
A second motion was passed (put forward by Cllr Philip Edwards) to raise our concerns on the democratic process and that when we restart negotiations with the applicant the we look to gain maximum compensation/investment in the area.The motion was recorded and passed.
Cabinet are due to meet at 2pm today to make the final decision, but I'm positive it will not be any different to this mornings meeting.
Update: The Cabinet ratified the decision from the mornings council meeting.
The cost of the advice was significantly less than my estimates, the costs was less than a few thousand pounds. Indicating that the legal counsel did not need to spend a vast amount of time on the case, meaning the case was fairly clear cut.