FEARS that Powys County Council (PCC) will be given a huge fine for breaching data protection rules, is justifying its move for less transparency of planning applications.

This is because PCC has stopped uploading comments from the public to its planning portal.

It claims this is due to a “data breach” investigated by the Information Commissioner.

This was revealed by a question from Dr Christine Hugh-Jones answered by Cllr Martin Weale, economy and planning portfolio holder.

Dr Hugh-Jones was allowed to ask a follow up question at the full council meeting on Thursday, July 11.

Dr Hugh-Jones, said: “Cllr Weale does not realise that Powys residents live up to 60 miles from here (Llandrindod Wells) and the Welshpool office (Neuadd Maldwyn) is to be sold off.

“Local councillors and others have made round journeys of over 100 miles to inconvenient appointments only to find that key planning responses weren’t available.

“Effectively you need a car, time and money to spare; no full time job so that you can get to Gwalia (office in Llandrindod Wells).

“This is hardly democratic.

“Powys have made the cowardly decision to increase secrecy and decrease public accountability of planning.

“Would you agree that the right way to manage the commissioner’s reprimand  is to improve procedures and educate staff in professional and competent  management of personal data?

“Other councils manage this.”

Cllr Weale (Independent – Llanbadarn Fynydd) replied: “I am put in to this position to make decisions on the advice of planning officers and I believe I have done the right thing.

“With British Airways being fined £180 odd million and Marriott  £90 odd million.

“We have to face these things head on and we don’t have the resources anymore.

“Names and addresses have slipped through the net.

“I stand by what we have done.”

Local authorities are legally required to make all comments on planning application, including people’s names, available for public inspection, at offices and online.

They should redact data such as contact details and address.

British Airways is to be fined more than £183 million by the Information Commissioner’s Office after hackers stole the personal data of 500,000 customers.

Similarly, hotel group Marriott International has been fined £99 million, after it was hacked in November 2018 and the details of 339 million customers worldwide were stolen.