Thursday 18 October 2012

Planning in Carmarthenshire - a public inquiry?

Update 19 October

West Wales News Review (here) has delved deep into the planning history behind the story of Trisha Breckman and the neighbouring Thomas family. This is an extremely well written account of the expansion of the Thomas's businesses over the years, and it shows that the County Council was fully aware of what was going on.


There have been quite a few comments on the posts about the Breckman case, and as usual this blog has published everything, including some frankly objectionable opinions. One of the questions raised was why the programme did not interview Mr Thomas. The BBC has confirmed that the programme makers wrote to Mr Thomas asking him to take part, but he was not interested. They also informed him that they would be showing footage of his late wife.

It is fair to say that the footage showing Mrs Thomas was important because it told viewers about one of the worst incidents in the whole dispute which led to the victim, Mrs Breckman, being led away in handcuffs by Dyfed Powys Police.

Following that incident, the dispute went to court, and as Caebrwyn has pointed out, Mr Thomas admitted on oath that he had been running the haulage business for 10 years without the necessary planning permission. He was also ordered to reinstate the lane leading to Mrs Breckman's cottage to its previous width and to remove the gates he had put up. The programme noted that he had complied with the court ruling.


Some years ago our former MP, Adam Price, told me that he received more letters and complaints about planning in Carmarthenshire than on any other topic, and if anything things seem to have got steadily worse.
Viewers of Week In Week Out broadcast on Tuesday will have seen AM Rhodri Glyn Thomas calling for a public inquiry into the County Council’s handling of planning contraventions following the judgment of the Public Services Ombudsman who found Carmarthenshire County Council guilty of maladministration.
In a statement issued after the programme went out, he added: 

The television programme has shown beyond any doubt the difficulties my constituents have faced over the past few years with next to no support from the local authority.  The Ombudsman himself has stated the local authority has failed to carry out its duties properly.
Unfortunately, but characteristically Carmarthenshire County Council has now questioned the integrity of the Ombudsman.
Having met with the Ombudsman last week, and having received a catalogue of representations from constituents regarding planning matters in the county, I have this week written to the Welsh Government Ministers for Local Government and Sustainable Development to request a public inquiry on this case.
The conclusions of the Ombudsman, the evidence shown in the television programme and the local authority’s decision to question the integrity and impartiality of the Ombudsman present a clear need for a full public inquiry.
As readers of this and other blogs will know, the County Council has sat on the Breckman report since the beginning of July and has withheld it from our elected councillors.

The Ombudsman's report has thus joined the growing number of issues where the leader, Kevin Madge, and the Chief Executive, Mark James, are keen to prevent any public discussion. These include the Sainsbury's planning fiasco and misuse of the council's press office, as well as pollution in the Burry inlet.

Plaid's leader on the council, Peter Hughes Griffiths, said:
Despite the Ombudsman’s report being published at the start of July, Councillors have yet to be provided with either a copy of the report or an opportunity to discuss the findings openly in the council chamber.  This lack of discussion is a direct contravention of the Ombudsman’s recommendation.
What is clear from the Ombudsman’s comments is that the authority lost all objectivity in this case and subsequently failed Carmarthenshire residents.
The leadership of this authority must do better and never allow such an injustice to happen again.   I expect the Leader of the Council to present the Ombudsman’s full report at the next meeting of the Council.


Delyth Jenkins said...

I think it's vital that every County Councillor reads this report thoroughly and do not allow attempts to distract them from the seriousness of its contents.
A public enquiry is well overdue not only into the planning department but also into the social care department too.

Anonymous said...

Where did the BBC confirm that Mr Thomas declined?

What do you find objectionable in the comments on your blog regarding the BBC's treatment of the matter?

Anonymous said...

OK....This is my last post on it. What I find objectionable is that you have demonized Mr Thomas and so did the BBC programme. He has not been found guilty of any criminal offence. But it appears that in your craving to to get at your local county council, this man may be counted as collateral damage. I have followed your blog for months and usually support what you say regarding Carmarthenshire Council but you've lost some respect over this one.

Cneifiwr said...

I asked on my readers' behalf. You are of course free to check with the BBC yourself.

The answer to the second question is obvious, and I won't bore people by repeating it.

Anonymous said...

Aye...the BBC....that paragon of honesty! :-))

Anonymous said...

Rwyt ti wedi dewis pedion dangos fy neges frawd. Paham? Cofia! Mae unigolion yn bwysicach na'r awdurdodau. O leia, dyna oedd bod barn ein pobl.

Anonymous said...

The bugbear here is transparency. Mr Thomas expanded his haulage firm without the necessary checks, he did this in a manner that was drawing complaints as the couple moved into their home.
Did Carmarthenshire Council help? It didn't appear so.
Do the voters of Carmarthenshire need greater transparency? Yes they do.

Cneifiwr said...

@21.55 Pa neges? Rwy i wedi cyhoeddi pob dim.

johnsouthwales said...

looking up gov records 2005, only two lorries are mentioned. hardly an expansion.

as for other matters, the quarrying didn't need permission. the purpose of the quarry was to break up stone to use as hardcocre base for a shed that had planning permission for.. confused? look up planning apps. I don't know which shed the welsh office gave permission for E/09576

Cneifiwr said...

Sadly I have just had to delete two comments before publishing them. Ironically, one attacked one side, while the other attacked Mr Thomas. Both make claims which I cannot vouch for, although the person who wrote the comment about Mr Thomas made a very valid point about the care which journalists take in cases such as these for the very good reason that the BBC, ITV etc. have no wish to be sued for libel.

If the person who wrote about Mr Thomas would like to resubmit, leaving out the word before "background", I will be happy to publish.

As for the comments about Abercrave, I cannot verify what you say.

In this case, we can only go on the evidence provided by the programme and what the Ombudsman himself has written in his 180 page report. The report is not yet generally available, but I understand that the Ombudsman will provide copies on request.