A PETITION has been started by the Brecon and Radnor branch of the CPRW (Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales) to have Powys County Council start publishing third party comments on planning applications again.

The practice of publishing comments for and against planning applications, on PPC’s planning portal was stopped.

But the controversial decision, made for fear of incurring fines due to breaches in GDPR, is supposed to be reviewed in December.

But PCC has said that the decision has already been reviewed and there will be no changes.

Dr Christine Hugh-Jones, secretary of Brecon and Radnor, CPRW, said: “In December 2018, Powys County Council stopped publishing comments from ‘third parties’ on their planning website, with a review due in December 2019.

‘Third parties’ are local people and other Powys residents and environmental or other stakeholder organisations.

“They often have important evidence for or against planning applications which should be taken into account.

“Third party comments show us the extent and reasons for public concern.

“They should be available on the internet for everyone including planning committee members, to see.

“The poor alternatives of viewing files in Llandrindod Wells or asking for public comments by email penalise the public and are simply not working.

“PCC is worried about breaking data-protection laws.

“Instead of improving staff training to redact any sensitive information, Powys County Council decided it is better to conceal all public comments from other members of the public.”

Dr Hugh-Jones, added: “There was no public consultation about this.

“Monmouthshire, Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, Gwynedd, Denbighshire, Shropshire and Herefordshire all publish public comments with names and addresses.

“They all manage the administration and data protection laws.

“We have poor public transport and residents living up to 65 miles

from county hall.

“Yet Powys has unilaterally decided to deprive the public of internet access to the high volume of public comments on planning applications without any consultation with the public.”

A spokesperson for Powys County Council said: “We are aware of concerns from non-statutory organisations and individuals regarding the decision to no longer publish third party representations in relation to planning applications.

“The decision was made for resource reasons and to reduce any potential risk of publishing sensitive data.

“The decision was reviewed recently and these reasons remain valid, and the decision remains in place.

“The authority is under no obligation – in legislation or regulation – to publish third party representations and other authorities in Wales have taken the same stance.”

The spokesperson added that those who want to see a third party comment can by requesting copies – by email or advance appointment – and redacted versions of representations can be provided by the planning service.

For more details contact Planning.Services@powys.gov.uk or ring (01597) 827161.