AN ENVIRONMENTAL energy company has been accused of 'riding roughshod' over planning controls, with changes to an agreed £400,000 hydro-electric power scheme at Sampford Spiney, affecting an historic weir.

CGP (South West) of Abbotskerswell near Newton Abbot, was on the receiving end of sharp criticism for 'salami slicing' building rules during work on the energy-saving Huck-worthy Mill scheme around a 16th century weir on the River Walkham.

The biting denun-ciations were fired off at this month's meeting of Dartmoor National Park Authority's development and management committee, where even the body's senior archaeologist, Jane Marchand, joined the chorus of criticism by admitting: 'It has gone beyond the point of saving what can be saved.

'It's a no-win situation. I'm obviously deeply saddened by the whole thing.'

But despite the brickbats being thrown, the committee agreed to take no further action on the breaches, which they felt were not serious enough to provoke enforcement action on the small-scale scheme.

The unpermitted changes involved installing a fish pass at the weir at least a metre away from its intended position, and building a nearby turbine house nearly half-a-metre higher than the approved plans.

This meant the pitch of the roof was also steeper than desired. Steps built alongside the structure had also not been agreed.

It was revealed at the meeting that the weir was incorrectly positioned on the original survey maps.

Changes to the turbine house were not visually intrusive — and consequently could stay as they were, committee members heard.

Instead of enforcement action, the committee agreed to impose a Section 106 agreement which would 'regularise' the departure from the original permissions.

The authority's head of legal services, Chris Walledge, insisted: 'This is a proper and robust policy — and a valid alternative to enforcement action.'

Scheme opponent Roger Furniss, of the South West Rivers Association, felt it was important the public record showed that the authority should express its concern as the body responsible for planning control.

He accused the developers of 'salami-slicing' their way through approved plans.

The committee heard from another member that the public's perception would be one of developers 'riding roughshod' over planning rules.

Philip Sanders said: 'We have not really covered ourselves in glory at all as far as the public is concerned.'

Members voted 14-4 in favour of no further action as 'divergences' from agreed plans were not felt to be too significant.