Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Reports of duplicate survey responses

The credibility of the LCC's wind farm survey is cast further in doubt with the revelation that it was possible to complete the online survey any number of times from the same computer. One source reveals that they entered their views at least 30 times within the space of 15minutes.

Is it possible for LCC to justify the adoption of their "anti-wind" guidelines on the back of this seriously flawed survey?

I guess we'll find out on Friday.

Letter to councillors

I emailed this statement to all Lincolnshire County Councillors last week.

Dear Councillors,
Please find attached an article that I'm hoping will be published throughout Lincolnshire.
The content makes it clear that we believe the LCC anti wind campaign is a serious abuse of council authority.
Here are extracts from the Department for Communities and Local Government code of recommended practice on local authority publicity (March 2011), under the heading of Objectivity.
15. Local authorities should ensure that publicity relating to policies and proposals from central government is balanced and factually accurate. Such publicity may set out the local authority’s views and reasons for holding those views, but should avoid anything likely to be perceived by readers as constituting a political statement, or being a commentary on contentious areas of public policy.
16. Any publicity describing the council’s policies and aims should be as objective as possible, concentrating on the facts or explanation or both. Local authorities should not use public funds to mount publicity campaigns whose primary purpose is to persuade the public to hold a particular view on a question of policy
We understand that the anti-wind guidelines are due to be discussed on the 22nd February. 
We urge you to attend that meeting and ensure that these guidelines are not approved as council policy.
Furthermore, we ask that you pass a resolution that prevents future publication of council approved anti wind commentary.
On behalf of the Lincolnshire Pro Wind Alliance
James Pocklington

Friday, 8 February 2013

The Leader of Lincolnshire County Council fails to understand why anyone would think the council have a negative bias against onshore wind farms or would consider the survey printed in the County News not to be a fair reflection of public opinion.

So how to explain?

Well, my understanding of the way to gauge public opinion is to randomly select a number of individuals through telephone or face to face contact and then to ask a set of clearly phrased questions that allow a full range of opinion to be registered. The questions should not be ambiguous, ensuring that every interviewee has a similar understanding of the question before answering it.

Once the answers have been logged and recorded, the data needs to be analysed and weighted to ensure that the sample results represent an accurate proportion of the total population. This means taking care that the views of one sector in terms of age, gender or location do not dominate the final result.

A poll such as this can never factually reflect the views of all of the population but it can give an idea of attitudes generally.
The survey that Lincolnshire County Council produced was really a “call to arms”, it was an invitation to those who had strong feelings to have their say. It was pre-empted by months of anti wind farm rhetoric from Councillor Hill, which made the position of the council perfectly plain. It was not a poll of public opinion.

There were 4000 responses to the survey, 28% came from East Lindsey district which has an active anti wind farm campaign group but only has 19% of the population.
There are approximately 750,000 adults living in Lincolnshire so the survey had a response rate of about 0.5%, a low figure to argue that the results represent a fair view of the whole county.

The survey results showed almost unanimous support for the council guidelines to be considered by the planning authorities, regardless of the fact that the guidelines have no weight in planning law and cannot be considered by the planning authority.

The guidelines have never been published in full within County News but they are available online. If you read the full details and apply them to the existing 7 wind farms in Lincolnshire then most would have failed to gain approval, let alone any new proposals.

National Planning legislation demands “a presumption in favour of sustainable development”. However the council guidelines require “a presumption against wind turbine developments”.
So what is going on here? Why are the council so intent on producing a set of planning guidelines that have no legitimate function and directly contradict central government policy?

Perhaps this is a clue? This passage is taken from a report written to the councillors authored by Alan Freeman LCC head of planning, on the 6th June 2012.

“As the author states, the County Council is not the local planning authority nor is it a local plan making body. As such the County Council has no ability to make planning statements or policy and this statement should be given as a political statement only

The point of the exercise, in my opinion, is to attempt to derail central government policy on the continued deployment of onshore wind farms and support the rebellious section of the Conservative party that do not believe global warming is an issue worth bothering with.

This is why I believe the behaviour of our county council in this matter is improper. It represents a gross misuse of public funds and an abuse of the powers delegated to them by the electorate.

If you agree that the council should stop promoting a negative image of wind power then please sign the on line petition at No bias on wind