Meaningful consultation?

by backpackingbongos

What does the word consultation mean to you?

The dictionary definition of consultation is:  The act of discussing something with somebody or with a group of people before making a decision about it.

A pretty simply statement I would hope that you agree?

My next question is why have a consultation?  I think that we would all agree that the purpose of a consultation should be to listen to what people have to say, to receive feedback.  The questions asked and the feedback received should then be used in a way that reflects the opinions of those who were consulted.  The feedback can then be used to shape policy as a way of reflecting what the public wants.  I would define this as meaningful consultation.  I think that the word democracy could also be used.

As an Advocate for homeless and vulnerable people I help ensure that individuals get their voice heard.  Part of this role includes supporting groups and individuals who are being consulted about the services that they receive.  I think that one of the most important questions to ask any organisation carrying out a consultation is ‘why are you doing it?’.  Is it to take into consideration the views and opinions of those who use your services?  Or are you doing it as a box ticking exercise?  Sadly I often come to the conclusion that it is because of the latter.

Where are you going with this I hear you ask?  Please take the time to read the press statement that I have copied and pasted below and consider whether you feel that this is an example of meaningful consultation.  Answers can be left in the comments box below.

Cambrian Mountains Society

Press Release

Date: 4th January 2012

Public Consultation Responses on the draft TAN8
Analysed by the Cambrian Mountains Society

1. The Cambrian Mountains Society has announced the results of its comprehensive analysis of
the responses to the Welsh Government’s public consultation on the draft Technical Advice
Note 8 (TAN 8). The final version of this controversial document led to the proposals for the
establishment on the uplands of Wales of what Welsh Government consultants called
‘turbine landscapes’. As a result of their analysis the Society is calling for a new review of
TAN 8.

2. Only 10% of respondents supported the draft TAN 8 in what is thought to be the largest
number of responses to any Welsh Government consultation. 90% of the close to 1700
responders were against the whole or part of TAN 8. The responses were notable for the
number of individuals who responded, rather than organizations. 94% of these responses
were against TAN 8 in whole or part. Their views were almost wholly ignored in the final

3. Despite the overwhelming opposition to the draft document the final TAN 8 was if anything
strengthened further in favour of turbine development on the Welsh uplands.

4. Many responders criticised the timing of the Consultation and local community councils who
responded complained that they were left out of the formal arrangements. The draft was
published just days before, under the Welsh Government’s own regulations, the need for a
Strategic Environmental Assessment of such a policy came into effect on 21st July 2004. Calls
for TAN 8 to be the subject of a Strategic Environmental Assessment owing to its nature and
scale were not answered by the Welsh Government.

5. Despite the views of the vast majority of responders to the Consultation, landscape quality
was not considered in the selection of areas for turbine development other than to rule out
National Parks and AONBs. Remarkably the Countryside Council for Wales (CCW) was not
involved until the public consultation stage. Thus areas which CCW as the Welsh
Government’s statutory adviser on landscape classifies as of outstanding landscape quality
are categorized in TAN8 for turbine developments and a future as ‘turbine landscapes’. Even
a prospective wind turbine developer’s response was to express unease about turbines
being proposed ‘very close to the nationally acclaimed Pumlumon range’. This has caused a
great deal of public anxiety about the policy.

6. On the important issue of grid transmission National Grid Transco expressed particular
concern that it had not been considered in the planning. The Welsh Government’s response
was that the issue had to be considered outside TAN 8. This is analogous to constructing a
reservoir without any consideration of where the main water pipes have to go. It has a direct
relevance to the problems in Mid Wales to-day and which contributed to the largest ever
demonstration outside the Welsh Assembly in Cardiff last summer.

7. Other problems arising from the current application of TAN 8 were envisaged by many of the
responders. In their responses turbine developers referred to problems of transmission and
difficulties of access on public roads.

8. The work underpinning the document was undertaken by international consultants Arup
who considered it would apply for 5-7 years. Since that report turbine heights have
increased from around 160 feet to around 450 feet, public perceptions have developed on
the issue and other technologies have developed too as well as the UK government’s energy
policy. Problems have arisen on transmission and other issues. The Cambrian Mountains
Society therefore calls for the Welsh Government to instigate a formal review of the
application of TAN 8 and to apply to it the Strategic Environmental Assessment which its
own regulations would normally require.

1. The controversial policy on establishing wind turbines and associated transmission lines in
the Welsh uplands is based on the Welsh Government’s TAN 8 (Technical Advice Note 8) the
basis of which has been recently the subject of criticism in the Welsh Assembly, in Parliament
and was the cause of this summer’s largest demonstration ever outside the Welsh Assembly
in Cardiff

2. The Cambrian Mountains Society have analysed the responses to the public consultation on
the draft Tan8 circulated in July 2004 and have produced the only numerical analysis of the
responses. The analysis was carried out by 8 analysts from the Cambrian Mountains

Society who between them examined each of close to 1700 responses to the

3. The results of the analysis show the overwhelming opposition to TAN8 expressed in the
consultation responses. Responders’ comments are as relevant to-day as at the draft stage
of Tan8.

4. Further detail on the Cambrian Mountain Society’s analysis and pdf files containing the
responses can be viewed at

If that is not depressing enough have a quick read of this:

One of Scotland’s best wild landscapes lost on Lewis

It’s all pretty tragic eh?


25 Comments to “Meaningful consultation?”

  1. almost makes you feel like not bothering but then again thats exactly what they want you to do. At the end of the days its M O N E Y and the generation of it for a few wealthy people who want to become even more weathly and bugger the rest of us. Although in no way anywhere close to this, we had a consultation for a supermarket to be built in the largest town nearby. Council paid for the consultation (sorry we the council tax payers did) and when the result came back in overwhelming favour of it they ignored it and rukled against it. What the hell was the point of the consultation?

    fume over

  2. ‘Consultation’ in the context of developments – whether they be windfarms, property development or whatever else – tend only to be a gesture made by the developers and the rubber-stamping authorities in the direction of complying with statutory requirements. They think we’re all schmucks and they don’t give a flying fuck about what any of us think because they already know that it’s a done deal and they’re going to make a lot of money.

  3. oh, and if you were wondering why a supermarket build was (potentially) a good thing. In this town, we are stuck with a Waitrose supermarket that charges just stupid prices for food and the local area is not overly affluent and has many senior citizens. The 2nd supermarket would have at least allowed the townspeople chice and some better pricing.

    All politicians are crooks


  4. I feel a bit better now……

  5. For what its worth I have copied John Griffiths AM – responsible for the environment (safe in his hands?) and asked for his views.

    It was the same in long forgotten work when new procedures were brought in “based on surveys”. However when asked for details of the surveys no reply was the answer.

  6. I feel that consultations are done so that people feel that their views matter and the developers get a lovely tick in a box, however the results will only be for the benefit of one side. Call be a cynic but that may well be the side with the money.

    It will be interesting if John Griffiths AM replies to you Bob, let us know the outcome.

  7. When I worked in the NHS. “meaningful consultation” meant making a decision, telling people a little bit about it and having a period during which their representations were put on file, taken to a deep cellar in a far away place and locked into a strong cabinet marked “danger, crocodiles” which was then flooded. The decision originally made was then implemented. This is how democracy works. We had a similar local govt. decision in Co durham involving a “plebiscite” where people were asked, and rejected the idea of a single local authority to replace five District Councils. This was rejected by 75% of people who voted. They did it anyway. Its always been like this. Its democracy. I’m not entirely sure that the politicians actually make these decisions anyway.

  8. Like so many things in life, the powers that be make their decisions and then only consult because they have to, not because they’re actually interested or have any intentions of taking any notice.

  9. Our wild spaces are being eroded at a truly alarming rate, words fail me… I think Mike Knipe is very close to the truth with his last sentence. It’s the unelected people who make the policies and decisions no matter who is in “power” at whatever level government/planning etc. How do you change it? god only knows.

  10. You are entirely correct. ‘Consultation’ is nothing of the sort, it’s pretty much a rubber stamp exercise. I’d be interested to know how many large projects where consultation takes place are changed in any major fashion. Not a lot I’d guess.

  11. I can think of nothing better to say than. GGGRRRRRRRRR!

  12. What mike said.

    and I don’t think this is a fair consultation. But thanks for asking…

  13. I have to say that whilst I have no truck with some if not most of the windfarm bashing that takes places across blogs on the internet, I do find this rather disagreable and indeed a denial of democracy, not something I take lightly. I come from a country with a very strong political culture of devolved powers where (a variation thereof) consultation is enshrined in the law and referendums(we have plenty, local and national) are binding. Sometimes it ends with terrible results (the minaret ban is one example) but I would rather be hung by the balls than do away with it.

    I have to say I don’t really understand how the consultation process works in the UK nor the point of it considering the political culture in place (representative democracy which to me basically means voting someone in on a manifesto and hope he/she’ll stick to it). If that process truly is meaningful and representative of local opinions (rather than being open to outside influence from organised lobbies asking you for your representation against such and such project), it ought to be taken into account, particularly when figures show overwhelming support/opposition.

    • Yuri
      Your thoughts on onshore wind power plants are indeed well known. How you feel able to decry the method of UK planning laws about wind farms whilst being a keen supporter of them just beggars belief.

      The planning system is exactly as it is because the politicians know that if local opinion was to hold sway, the wind power stations would not be built.

      • You have to understand Alan that my politics are very much in favour of a considerable shift of the balance of power towards the people, that people ought to have a say as to how they wish to run their local communities as well as the country (direct democracy) and their voices should be heard. It is an essential part of our political DNA in my parts from extreme right-wing nutters to extreme left-wing nutters…

        The planning system has been systematically dismantled in the last few years, as you well know. The Planning Act 2008 introduced by Labour made sure any major inftrastcture project (such as the large windfarms being projected all over the country) could basically not be opposed, our good friends in the Coalition governement are now ready to dismantle it even further, with their Localism Bill which is described in eloquent anger by the much maligned Monbiot in the awful Guardian. How could anyone agree with that man or maybe you will in this case…?

        Contrast that to the enlighted position taken by the Adam Smith Institute who see nothing but positives in further deregulation. Probably so their friends can build as many power plants as they wish seeing as they think renewables are complete rubbish…Business must be liberated from the shackles of nimbyism!! *

        Will you post this link on your blog too…? They had an interesting position on the Forestry sell-off too…I just ask as I have a sneaking suspicion you really like those chaps…

        As a big fan of nuclear energy, at least you can rejoice than any community that will have one of those wonders of modern technology built next to them won’t be able to express any luddite opposition to them…

        I’m still waiting re consultation planning in the UK btw. Are those consultations a matter for local residents only or can anyone put forward a representation?

        * Lesser gifted readers ought to take notice I’m being sarcastic…

    • Re your question Yuri about consultation planning in the UK, my understanding is that they are a matter for local residents, although someone out there may well point out that I am wrong (If I am please say so!) Although anyone has the right to make a representation in the form of a letter to the oppropriate person. If I wrote a letter apposing a wind farm on Lewis, would it hold as much clout as one from a local resident? If there was a development where I lived I would hope that as a local resident my voice would hold more sway than a person hundreds of miles away.

      • Thanks James. I scanned through about 300 letters from the Tan8 document posted by the Cambrian Mountain Society to have a look for myself, I could see in the main the representations were by people living in the affected areas but also by interested parties such as the renewable industry, councils, etc, etc (either for or against Tan8)

        That’s essentially my main concern about those consultations, there is no real way to tell what percentage of the local population has replied so we can have a comparison with the theoretical X number of people in a position to offer a relevant opinion vs the Y number who actually replied. Tan8 is a huge project that really ought to have far more work done in term of obtaining approval (or not) by means other than some kind of glorified poll…

        Anyhow, if you think windfarm promoters are bad, what about oil lobbyists…. 😉

      • Two comments, and only two comments, Yuri.

        First, what right do you have to say that “your main concern” about local consultation is whether the majority of people expressing an opinion are local? You made a similar point regarding the Strathy North wind farm. Who the hell do you think you are to legislate on what constitute legitimate opinion on a particular development? Quite clearly your agenda is that anti-wind opinion is illegitimate in general and so you want to disqualify people having an anti-wind opinion from expressing it unless it affects their own backyard. That of course means that anti-wind opponents, by your own strictures, can only be NYMBYs! In point of fact I know from our local experience that most people writing *in support of wind plants* come from outside our area. They are activists, like you, who systematically write standard letters in support of wind plants provided by the likes of Greenpeace and FOE. So, if there’s interference from outside opinion it is mostly coming from your side.

        Secondly, your naivety is legendary, but to think there’s a distinction between pro-wind and pro-oil lobbyists is disingenuous in the extreme. The wind industry *is* the oil industry. It is exactly the same folks running after the money.

        The sooner you move away from your kindergarten generalisations, the better it’ll be.

  14. Interesting, but unsurprising!

    This is, of course, a travesty. And it smacks of all that is bad about modern-day politics. I suspect it is because the current crop of politicians is so pathetic – from all parties – they are only in it for themselves. We, as a public, deserve better that those who are foisted upon us.

    The trouble is: if we were allowed to enter into the process fully, they would be outed as self-serving, money-grabbing, two-faced shysters that they are. In some countries, they may be admirable qualities in a politician, but I don’t believe that to be the case in the UK yet.

    Anyway, enough of that – but it’s good to get these things off one’s chest once in a while!

  15. Andy, Andy, Andy…

    You can’t bemoan on one hand that pro-wind bodies “interfere” in what should be a local consultation when you do exactly the same in your blog campaigns… Either those consultations are just an excercise in who shout the loudest and scare people the most, one way or the other or they are precisely framed consultations that concern people directly affected by a proposed plant (or supermarket or road bypass or whatever), people whose lives will be directly affected.

    I don’t interfere with any windfarm projects btw, not my business. I’m in favour of wind energy, I accept some wind farms will have to be built in places that ought to be left in the state they are (with regrets) but I don’t actively support that. I also have no particular interest in the kind of wild conspiracy theories that float around the internet on the subject of windfarms. I suspect people loading their blogs with that kind of nonsense do more harm than good when it comes to effective opposition to large scale projects, they give a perfect excuse for planners to dismiss any opposition as “the usual blog ranting loonies who think it’s all a tax scam and a communist plot funded by the eco-nazi lobby”. The John Muir Trust is one excellent example of thoughtful and effective opposition, which reminds me I need to join…

    It’s all a moot point anyway, when the new Localism Bill is passed and implemented, they’ll be precious little left for anyone to do to intefere with the onwards march of business…Next will be all that “bureaucratic red tape” that has enshrined some of our rights to roam and access to the country and, no doubt, all that Forestry land will be privatised, one way or the other…I wonder what kind of person could vote in that kind of right-wing libertarians in, surely not anyone who profess to care about the great outdoors…

    That said, the option of petition to have a new devellopement remains, for example you and Alan could petition for a nuclear central to be built where you live. No doubt your talent as campaigning bloggers and indeed Alan’s zealous belief than the future is nuclear will receive a great welcome from local residents…

    I refuse to believe you are being serious with your last point then again, if there is one person who could come up with something as ridiculous as that it is indeed you…

    Wishing you a speedy recovery


    • Yuri, I really wished you consider returning to your home country and sort out the minaret issue there and leave us in peace.
      One last time: it is you raising the issue of legitimate commenting on local issues. When Strathy North was approved, sensible people despaired and gave vent to their sadness, including our host on this blog.

      The only thing you could say, o great lover of nature, was questioning whether those who had opposed the project really were local. Coming from someone from Switzerland, it was a breathtaking statement. By the same token, what right have you got to pronounce on UK issues?

      So, it is you raising the issue of interference. I merely pointed out that by far the greatest amount of interference emanates from the astroturfing techniques employed by Monbiot followers of your ilk and Greenpeace activists who regularly send blanket letters of support for wind applications that show complete ignorance of local issues and are simply standard letters saying we need wind to save the planet.

      On your comments: as I happens, I live near Torness. And it doesn’t bother me a bit. On another discussion, I linked to the youtube video of a guy who lives next to a wind plant. You often make the remark that you’d rather live near a wind plant than a nuclear one. I invited you to swap house with the guy. The offer still stands. But then, you pretended that video doesn’t exist.

      As for the fact that the wind industry is in fact the same guys who push for oil and nuclear, well, check, for once in your deluded life, the facts of the matter. Check who owns the biggest wind multinational and then eat humble pie.

      Finally, I really really find you the most infuriating sort of person ever. It is SO clear from your posts that you couldn’t care less about the environment. It’s all about making a statement that you are cleverer than anyone else. You clearly have no empathy at all for the environment.

      I hope the JMT refuses membership if you ever get round to applying.

      I’ll make a point not to visit this blog any more in the future in case you comment again. You do not belong in outdoors blogs. Trainspotting ones maybe,

      • Just one very last comment before I really disappear (or else I’m going to burst a vessel at the thought of the Abominable Yury): I won’t read your reply, but could you please answer/explain one point to those who will go on reading this blog: how can you account for the sort of psychological make-up of your mind with regard to the Strathy North approval? That is really the key issue here. Our host on this blog posted a fantastic series of reports on that area (see e.g.
        It’s one of the most magical places up North. The Strathy North approval is an absolute tragedy, bemoaned by many.
        The ONLY thing you could say about that was: “ah, but who says the opposition was mainly local? I want to see who wrote in.” And you made a similar comment about the Cambrian issue, even going to the trouble to go over every address of the objector, perfectly in line with the true Orwellian Guardian-reader that you are, You indeed mirrored the reaction of your adored Leo Hickman to the Climategate scandal that exposed the buffoons at UEA for the cheats they are. Instead of condemning the corrupt academics if asked readers to help him in the witch-hunt for the whisteblower. Similarly, instead of lamenting the loss of wild life *all you can do* is launch a double witch-hunt to check whether the objectors are really local.

        It’s just unbelievable (and I’m trying to contain my language out of respect for our host. In fact I think it is despicable). Obviously folks like you never have a moment of genuine self-examination when their moral bankruptcy finally stares them in their face. But I’d love others to hear your reply to this question: what kind of person who professes to love the outdoors reacts in that way to the news of an approval of a major wind plant in wild country?

        Disgusted from Torness Wells.

  16. Guys I’m cool with people commenting and debating differing opinions but please leave any personal insults outside. It’s meant to be nice and fluffy in backpackingbongos land.


  17. Yuri

    I find your comments quite incredible.

    How can you possibly consider joining the JMT and be prepared to accept wind power plants on wild land? The nuclear power plants that are currently being considered are actually adjacent to existing plants. The wind farms that you support are going to smother virgin land.

    As much as I try to avoid the conclusion, it is perfectly obvious: You are a complete imbecile.

  18. Seeing as people totally ignored my request to leave personal insults outside, please post no more comments. This post is now closed to comments, any added from now on will be deleted.


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