Featured post

10,000,000 Miles in a Nissan Leaf?

Friday, 28 March 2014

Re-Writing History and Torturing Language

There are an unacceptable number of  misrepresentations in the latest spasm of "determination"   - "rushed through" in 2 years... laced with bias by omission and straightforward lies - we are almost spoilt for choice for things to complain about. For those of you in local government planning...  we think you might take some exception to what some officials at the EA seem to think is within their remit.

Some examples:

The Feb 2014 Determination Report - Appendix 1
Section 2 Application History.

The first sentence... 
"We received applications from two applicants for competing hydropower schemes on the same weir."  

umm... no - the applications were separate (and separated by almost three months) - and according to the EA's own internal "rules" (FoI) the first to apply (North Mill 2009) should have been the first determined. Justice Ockelton pointed this out at High Court/JR as indeed did the EA's own internal legal advice team at the time (FoI). In actual fact - the EA should have refused the second,  Weavers Mill application in 2010 - since under the provisions of WRA1991 - there was no water available.... as river flow was formally allocated to North Mill until the licence was determined (be that a yes or a no - it is a simple lock-in for the duration of the process)  


On 16 July 2010 we granted a licence to the Weavers Mill applicant.  The North Mill applicant appealed to the Planning Inspectorate and his applications were deemed refused under provisions of the WRA1991. He then issued judicial review proceedingchallenging our decision to grant a licence to the Weavers Mill applicant.

This is simple fantasy (I'm feeling generous here...). North Mill had already lodged an appeal for non-determination with HM Planning Inspectorate (PINS) - which should have stopped the process. EA officials then awarded a licence to Weavers Mill. The words used above makes it sound as if PINS "did the deeming" - when they actually did no such thing. The Planning Inspectorate could not act as EA officials had unlawfully given a licence - that licence is not within the power of PINS to revoke. The officials did this deliberately to thwart PINS, betting that the extra legal burden would dissuade North Mill from pursuing the matter.  The very idea that WRA1991 provides for this type of behaviour is "a joke"...? (You're 'avin a larf John eh?)

In Feb 2014 - 3 years later, officials have pulled the same stunt again - and awarded a licence to Weavers Mill without possibility of PINS appeal, deliberately abusing process en route. Never mind the hiding of documents and an extended attempt at cover-up.  


On  11  April  2012  the  Court  ordered,  by  consent,  that  our  previous  licence determination decisions were quashed and the applications were returned to us for re-determination. 
11 April 2012 - Consent Order signed by all parties.  The Environment Agency had to pay ALL costs. - as they had acted unlawfully by arbitrarily promoting one scheme in a biased fashion. And yes... the EA were instructed to act "without delay"

On 22 June 2012 we consulted with both applicants on our proposed decisions on a “minded to” basis.   At this time we were minded to grant licences to both applicants on a split-scheme basis, having provisionally concluded that there was sufficient water to support both schemes; allowing them to operate whilst sharing the water resource equally.However, following consultation and having received comments from both applicants and having taken expert advice, we determined that it was now no longer possible to issue licences to both applicants on a split-scheme basis.  The applications would now be regarded as competing applications (and would be compared in accordance with our Competing hydropower schemes guidance).  This necessitated the gathering by us of additional information from both applicants, in order to inform an independent  expert assessment by AMEC Environment and Infrastructure UK Ltd (‘AMEC’).
22 June 2012 - The split scheme gambit flies in the face of numerous things - not the least of which is the EA's own previous published assessments and the arguably binding undertaking in the Consent Order that "if faced with two or more competing schemes only one of which (at most) can be licenced  it will choose between the schemes on their merits" So, acting contrary to the consent order.... and maybe just a bit of making the evidence fit the policy?

On 30 April 2013 we consulted both applicants on our minded to determination report  providing them with a reasonable opportunity to comment upon the way in which we  had  applied  our  guidance.  Both applicants  submitted  comments  and  we  have considered these.
30 April 2013 - yes well, comments can be (and were) ignored :-)

On 19 July 2013 the Weavers Mill applicant submitted revised drawings relocating his intake structure to be within the footprint of the weir and included a fish pass in his scheme design.  In all other aspects the Weavers Mill design remains as first applied for.
19 July 2013 - No reason specified (Weavers Mill were presuming to build on someone else's land  - something that the EA had ignored for 3½ years ) The second sentence is a simple lie. The matter of riparian rights at Weaver's Mill is still unresolved.

On 30 August 2013 we undertook a site visit to the manufacturing premises where the Weavers Mill applicant proposes to manufacture the Kaplan turbine he proposes to install. This was done in response to concerns expressed by the North Mill applicant as to the Weavers Mill applicant’s ability to manufacture the turbine to an appropriate standard.
30 August 2013 - This fails to mention that the turbine in question is an unproven prototype, performance data is not available and the claims made for performance are in the view of other manufacturers - "optimistic". No evidence has been presented that the turbine and its associated structures had even been simulated as part of a design verification process.  This really does detract from the EA and AMEC claims about efficiency elsewhere.(What could go wrong eh?)

In October 2013 we were informed by the North Mill applicant that Weavers Mill was being advertised for sale. This necessitated further enquiries by us, which have now been completed; we consider this matter further at section 14.15 below.
October 2013 - as far as we are aware, the assertions made by the EA in the matter of Mr. Tarrant's continuing progress with the project were not evidenced .  The EA had no sight of any covenants or any other legal documents on the property deeds binding the new owner to allow Mr. Tarrant to continue with the licence and install/operate/maintain any machinery on the Weavers Mill property. In fact, no clear delineation of riparian responsibilities for the weir vs. the proposed Weaver's Mill turbine structure has been seen or a draft lease and associated wayleave. The EA consistently accept assurances on all sorts of things from Mr. Tarrant...

So where's it going?

Judicial Review ....  is a possibility again ... for partially the same reasons as last time. Tut,tut John ... you didn't actually read the last consent order or permission hearing documents did you mate?  The EA are also struggling mightily to conceal

The Baxendale Report  
on the first foul-up which is going to an Information Tribunal 

The EA have a 40 page submission going to the Tribunal - much of it bleating about how unfair it is that a small bunch of people have taken exception to and made quite a lot of noise about being cheated, lied to, bullied etcetera. These people have a web site, and shock horror - a blog! and have been disrespectful. They also seem to be claiming that The Public Interest always wholly and unequivocally coincides with the wishes and all activities of officials at The Environment Agency. = something that is self evidently untrue...

Ah well, it's only public money ....  £1,500,000 of it and possibly ratcheting up by the present (Feb 2014) running average  - of £1000 or so a day... The implied threats in Section 15 of the Appendix 1 document have got the potential to burn off loads more public money.

The EA have made efforts to make quoting from official documents issued relating to Avoncliff difficult - copying and pasting from the pdf files attached to the determination web page has been obfuscated - necessitating much re-typing and extra work - it just seems petty and indicative of the attitude of some officials.

On an Environment Agency congratulatory note ... (yes, you read that right!)  I have seen some encouraging and refreshingly transparent output from EA officials on the ground involved in dredging in Somerset - it remains to be seen if the higher ups get with the program...

EDIT: Oh Dear - it would seem that some officials can't restrain themselves....   EA refuse FoI on river profiles from Langport Town Council apparently ....


  1. It must be quite frustrating (understatement) to have officious bilge like that quoted above coming at you regularly for years - it almost put me off my meusli this morning.

    The bit about PINS is not exactly shocking - there's more shocking things in life - but it's just not right and should attract some sanction - like the sack. Public servants are doing themselves no favours behaving like this - it is a position of trust and the official conniving seen here on the Avoncliff blog with the clear evidence that wrongdoing goes unpunished is really annoying!

  2. Will you be offering a prize for finding more John Sweeneys that have been naughty? (You've removed the post but not the tweet!)

  3. Maybe, just maybe, the best application got the licence ?
    Thanks to this blog you have managed to make yourselves ( and I guess your project manager ) look foolish. At the end of the day, who wants two clanking and shaking old screws parked on a weir. Madness. You bullies got what you deserved.

  4. Well well well, who have been naughty boys then. I think they should all be sent for a haircut. I would suggest Sweeney Todd as the barber. He'll polish them off.

  5. I was watching TV last night and the One Show posed the question which do the general public trust most Bankers, Politicians or Estate Agents. Estate Agents were trusted most, they are after all a necessary evil. But the EA is not a necessary evil its senior management are just evil. What would the general public respond it they were asked what they thought was the least useful to society. Public Servants, Politicians or Estate Agents. Would you trust your child to the Social Services with Secret Family Courts. Would you trust a policeman who tazzered an old blind gentleman because he thought his white stick was a Samuri Sword - a should have gone to specsavers moment. Would you trust a bunch of liars, who break the law and ignore their own procedures and legal advice. Nor would I. No I don't mean the police although they probably qualify I mean the EA. Fiddle time sheets and expenses, no not a politician, the EA again.


Get it off yer chest - please keep it civil