Monday 4 May 2015

The Breckman case - an update

After a great deal of prompting from Mrs Breckman and others, Natural Resources Wales has finally confirmed that it is investigating the destruction of part of the Cernydd Carmel Special Area of Conservation near Maesybont.

As a reminder, this involved felling trees, stripping off vegetation and topsoil, quarrying, the construction of a road across the site and the storage of scrap metal, all done in the name of agriculture.

Apart from the landowner, the other party closely involved in all of this is Carmarthenshire County Council which has told Mrs Breckman that it has received a planning application from Mr Thomas for the retention of the road. In other words, this is a retrospective application.

In correspondence with Mrs Breckman, the planning officer sticks to the now official line that only a small section of the road may require planning permission because the bulk of it follows an old track which showed up on an Ordnance Survey map in 1881 but which disappeared from the records sometime between 1881 and 1901.

As Mrs Breckman has shown, the old track and the course of the new road are at right angles to each other.

The planning officer notes in a reply to Mrs Breckman that any application(s) submitted could be determined by planning officers rather than the planning committee, and goes on to say:

I note your comments on the question of agricultural justification, and the reference to sites with potential conservation value,  and these are areas that will be considered as part of the determination of any planning application, with the relevant weight being attached to all material factors, including consultation with the relevant external agencies where appropriate.

It would seem that in the council's view, the fact that a site has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a Special Area of Conservation gives it only "potential conservation value".

Let's hope Natural Resources Wales is taking note.


In a separate development, Mrs Breckman decided to write to the Chief Executive of Carmarthenshire County Council on 8 April this year to remind him that the council had agreed (albeit very belatedly) with the findings of the Public Services Ombudsman back in July 2012.

Bearing in mind that the Ombudsman found that this was one of the worst cases he had ever dealt with and that at the time of the report in 2012 it had already been eight years in the making, he asked the council to pay compensation to Mrs Breckman and her partner in recognition of the distress and huge costs involved.

The Ombudsman has few teeth, and the extent of any financial compensation is never more than a token.

One aspect of the case which attracted the Ombudsman's attention was the erection of what were described as "privacy boards" by Mr Thomas directly alongside Mrs Breckman's cottage, blocking not only her view but also natural light.

A glance at the map shows that Mrs Breckman's view from her windows was of a small paddock and the two enormous sheds built by Mr Thomas for agricultural use, even though nothing resembling agriculture is carried out on the site. It will be remembered that the council's planning committee rejected both applications, with the second decision being overturned by the head of planning using delegated powers.

Mrs Breckman could not see Mr Thomas's house from her cottage, and so Mr Thomas's motives for erecting the boards would not seem to have anything to do with privacy.

Because the council failed to act, the planning boards eventually became "immune to enforcement", and the Ombudsman asked the council to use its best endeavours to have the boards removed. Failing that, it should pay Mrs Breckman the modest sum of £1,000.

The council may have been extremely slow to respond to Mrs Breckman's complaints in the past, but this time Mr James wasted no time in replying to her request for payment on 20 April. After a brief preamble, he concludes:

The Council did use its best endeavours to persuade your neighbour to remove the board and he did.  There was therefore no additional payment due to you.

As Mr James knows, what actually happened was that Mr Thomas removed the boards only to replace them with this:

This remains the view from Mrs Breckman's windows, although Mr Thomas has now painted over the Owens logo. And here, as a reminder, is a view of the paddock, the sheds and Mrs Breckman's cottage from the main road:



caebrwyn said...

I doubt if the lorry would still be there if it was parked in front of Mr James' windows.

It also turns out that planning officers no longer write reports for decisions made under delegated powers. Should a matter go to appeal (and the appellant would be hindered by the absence of a report), or the Ombudsman, a statement would then be provided in the council's defence.

Anonymous said...

The same Mark James who used taxpayers money to sue a blogger - is trying to force her to sell her home to pay him the damages he has no right to, as it was not his money he used in the first place!

Anonymous said...

There is clearly no consistency when it comes to procedures in planning. One set of rules for this person and another for that person. No respect for the Ombudsman - no respect for his recommendations. This department above any other needs a thorough investigation. Vindictiveness against one person and favours for another. Carmarthenshire could well do without this department until the culture within it is forced into change.

Anonymous said...

So, A. Thomas Blaenpant Farm can lay down a road across agricultural land without planning permission, because, there was in the 1800s, a 'footpath'. Oh really!!! There's something very wrong with that!

Anonymous said...

These pictures are a classic example of the damage bad bad planning practice can cause. I believe I am right in saying the Planning Inspector said on the BBC documentary 'there was a justified complaint ignored for years and years. These pictures say it all.

Anonymous said...

The Breckman case illustrates why some people are prepared to stick up two fingers at planning procedure in the hope they’ll get away with it. Often, when they are found out they are only required to submit a planning application which then goes through on the nod.

Even when CCC planning decide that enforcement action is necessary they can be stabbed in the back by our elected representatives, as in a recent case in which the enforcement action is being appealed against.

A business fabricating steel framed buildings decided it could erect a concrete panel processing plant in open countryside without the benefit of planning permission. When CCC took enforcement action and then issued a stop notice, the business appealed the decision to the Planning Inspectorate (Reference:APP/M6825/C/14/2223745).

The documents relating to the appeal can be viewed at

Click on ‘Documents’ then ‘App's WSOE - Appellant's Proofs of Evidence’ and there at page 255/6 you’ll see a letter in support of the appellant’s actions from the Conservative member for Carmarthen West & South Pembrokeshire, AM Angela Burns.

It goes without saying the local community, which Angela Burns supposedly represents, is far from impressed.

Anonymous said...

The NWR is apparently being approached regarding the " of potential conservation value.Forgive the scepticism but think of this.The head of planning knew what was being excavated regardless of the construction of the road.I hardly think he would allow it to continue if he knew the NRW would prosecute.Was a plan hatched before this man even began to destroy the site.
Will be very interested to hear what NWR will do.

Anonymous said...

The siting of that lorry shows quite clearly the owner's intention was to
cause as much annoyance/distress as possible.Dreadful man.Even more dreadful the council officer who allowed it to replace the board.Very interesting is how did the Head of planning get the neighbour who put the board to remove it
after it had been in situe for so long.
if everything was above board-excuse the pun-why cannot the van be removed the same way? The situation and everything I've read about this case stinks to high heaven.I am sure there is more to come.Watch the space.

Anonymous said...

If only the various bodies and departments would actually do what they hold themselves out to do (and get paid to do). Rather than just stating that they do something worthwhile. The Audit Commission (with the exception of "Watermelon Balls"), the Ombudsman, National Resources Wales, the council's Bio-Diversity officer, the planning department (who reckon they're there/planning controls exist for some good reason or other) particularly enforcement. Unfortunately they're wimps who just want a salary and an easy life. Because of their failure to do what they're supposed to do, probably as they haven't got the stomach for a challenge, we end up with a spiteful and vindictive lunatic like the weasel running a show that just gets madder and madder and the immoral victimisation & punishment of his critics goes on unabated.