Where Wealden's Petition Panel had found only small mistakes and cleared their own council, they did not look at their failure to protect Anne Harris. It is alleged Wealden's planning and enforcement department were doing favours for Mrs Harris' landlord. What Wealden describe as a small mistake, was described by Judge Kennedy (in the Eastbourne County Court) as the worst case of harassment he'd seen.
What was not said, was that Wealden legal and housing officers were protecting her landlord, by not acting as they should have, they allowed the situation to escalate to where the roof on her house was removed and fires lit nearby, making this an offence involving potential arson, to add the the harassment that is in itself a criminal offence.
The Local Government Ombudsman found Wealden guilty of maladministration and fined them. Yet despite the finding of the County Court and the LGA, Wealden went on to harass Mrs Harris and their Monitoring Officer failed to report to the Members as required by the Local Government and Housing Acts. The Monitoring Officer has since been replaced.
This case was referred to Wealden as part of a Petition, that unknown to the Petitioner's the officer's of the council were fending off in the background, where one officer accused of multiple offences, Ian Kay, was related to a masonic builder where his father-in-law's masonic meeting place was only 100 yards away from Tyrian Lodge in South Street, Eastbourne. It goes without saying that Mr Kay neglected to mention that at important times, at one point commenting on his in-law's application, where there is a mysterious tippexed entry in the Register of Interests book as to what actually took place. Failing to register an interest and leave any planning chamber constitutes fraud. Though this is commonplace in committees all over the country, such procurement is illegal. It is more prevalent in Parish councils.
When it was said the Police had launched a probe, they decided not to take further action. In fact they did not look at this case at all. There was no crime number, the supposed investigation was a sham. Detective Sergeant Keith Lindsay was singled out to do the dirty, referring the matter to the CPS without interviewing any one of 12 unrelated members of the public making allegations of criminal malfeasance in public office, and not interviewing any one of the council officers accused. Have you ever heard of such a thing? Or at least that is what was said. We have no proof the CPS saw anything as of yet.
Whereas, apart from the fact it was a complaint in its own right, the failure of the legal and enforcement departments to do their job, constituted similar fact evidence. Similar fact evidence is now admissible when looking at crimes committed by suspects, which may be introduced into the courtroom. That being the case, these 12 complaints needed special attention and full investigation - not a blind-eye approach.
Of course the councillors must have known what was going on and did nothing about it for years. A panel of three die-hard officer's men were selected to look at complaints through a mesh so fine, the panel were not empowered to investigate any on the matters put before them. Before looking at any evidence, the panel members said they were right behind the officers - hardly an open minded approach. The panels was chaired by solicitor, Lord Richard Newton, with Jack Gore and Eddie Powell. Sir Geoffrey Johnson-Smith was approached by at least two of the complainants, but the MP declined to get involved.
SIR GEOFFREY JOHNSON-SMITH - Conservative MP for Wealden at the time failed to respond to representations made to him in person. This is more of the same. At the moment in the United Kingdom a Member of Parliament is not responsible to electorate and has no duty to represent a member of the public. That means they can pick and choose the cases they want to get involved in - naturally, the MPs in England only choose the cases that will show them in a good light.
We understood that practices were under review by a fresh team of officers and councillors wanting the best service and value for Wealden ratepayers. It remains to be seen how things pan out! Unfortunately, it's not looking that rosy as the complaint below reveals:
Mrs A Harris
Hackhurst Lane Piggery
Ref: Chris Bending
RE: WD/2017/2577/F - TIMBER FENCE
LANE INDUSTRIAL ESTATE, LOWER DICKER, HAILSHAM BN27 4BW
I wish to make a complaint about the attitude of a planning officer, Mr Chris Bending.
The complaint involves an application to partially fence off the carriage way 'Hackhurst Lane' from the industrial units facing it & from the road at right angles to it. WD/2017/2577/F.
1/ He failed to serve the requisite notices on affected parties or to publicly display them.
2/ He then refused to officially notify affected parties.
3/ He refused to regard encroachment into the carriageway (width set down in statute) or the fact that the proposed fence would prevent fence would prevent access of cattle lorries/tractors & trailers as material considerations.
4/ He refused to put all this nonsense in writing and refused to repeat in on the telephone so that I could tape record it.
Mr Bending appear to want to put me out of business, prevent me from continuing to use a piece of road I have used for over 30 years, and fail to inform me of the plan until it was too late to prevent it.
I found out about this application by chance. Mr Bending did not return my call and when I did speak to him he was arrogant and dismissive, saying that in his opinion no-one on the south side of Hackhurst Lane was materially affected by the proposed development & therefore did not need to be told about it.
I pointed out that the proposed fence would prevent me carrying on my business because I would not be able to get into my gate.
I reminded Mr Bending that applications to put a full length fence between the industrial estate & Hackhurst Lane or to gate off the A22 end of Hackhurst Lane at the first factory had failed because of the status of this road. Hackhurst Lane is in fact Private Carriageway No8. Its ownership, usage, enjoyment and width are laid down by Act of Parliament & tested in a landmark Judgment (on Private Carriageway No9) Benn V Hardinge.
The proposed development is on the carriageway which must (unless the Act of Parliament is repealed) be 20 feet wide.
Mr Bending said that in his opinion this is not a planning consideration. Entertaining a planning application for a development which is a breach of statute is clearly wrong & I therefore suspect that the owner of the carriageways set down under the Act has not been notified that with WDC & the Developer he is about to become complicit!
I pointed this out to Mr Bending that for me, the simple solution would be to have the fence beyond the carriageway & provide a gate in the fence opposite my farm gate with written agreement for me to access the road I have been using for the last 30 years & also thereby having carefully explained the damage this proposal would do to my business & my two neighbours concerns (Mr Stevens & Mr Grecroft) & having suggested a solution to these problems, I again asked Mr Bending to serve all three of us with official notification, so that we could make representations.
He refused saying he had pinned up notices. Neither I nor my 2 neighbours have seen these notices though there a 3 telegraph poles, one at each end of, & one opposite the proposed development. Mr Bending said he had put the notices up himself but was unable to say where he had put them.
I asked again for official notification - Mr Bending refused.
I asked him to give his reasons in writing - he refused.
I asked him to repeat his reasons while I recorded - he refused.
I asked him for a complaint form - he said write in.
I phoned my councillor, Mr White, & told him I was going to make a complaint about a council planning officer who was being very incompetent and arrogant & must be inexperienced. Mr White told me Mr Bending was a very senior planning officer.
When I listed my catalogue of complaints he said was waiting (in vain) for Mr Bending's response to a message he had left him (on another matter). Mr White could not remember the application going to Parish Council & said he would make enquiries with the Parish Clerk.
Mr Bending has failed to follow procedures & so doing put my business & use & enjoyment of my property at risk & is doing so quite knowingly & deliberately.
Please sort it out.
Mrs Harris applied for copy of the list of persons who Wealden DC say were served notice using her rights as per the Freedom of Information and Environmental Regulations. We should explain that in many cases in the past this Council have argued that if the correct notices have not been served on the owners of any land, that they cannot consider the application. This has been one of the favourite blockers used by Victorio Scarpa and Geoff Johnson, formerly solicitors to this Council. These two have long ago been replaced, thank heavens, hopefully for legal persons who would want to uphold the law and have a higher moral fibre than those we have had the misfortune to witness.
Wealden of course have two sets of values. They often let cases through where they know incorrect notices have not been served if it suits them, even though this is an abuse of process. On the other hand when trying to obstruct a member of the public, they often insist on correct notices being served.
Statute though is clear, if correct notices have not been served - and/or if you don't know the ownership of land, then that involves placing an advertisement in the local press - and that satisfies the legal criteria. In this case no Notice was served on the owner of the carriageway and no Advertisement was placed in any newspaper.
No amount of fudging can ever rectify a defective application or any such procedural impropriety, that would clearly render any deliberation that followed an Abuse of Process.
SHE HAS A POINT - You can see from the plan above that Mrs Harris would indeed be unable to access her farm if the carriageway was reduced in width. Almost anything is capable of being a material planning consideration with reference to National Planning Policy Framework. Building onto a private carriageway is not permissible where the limitations are clearly laid down in statute.
The good news is that Kelvin Williams is leaving this council, we also note that Charles Lant is also leaving the nest. This should give whoever replaces these old soldiers a fresh start. A word of advice to Chris Bending then, it is not a good idea to push ahead with an application when a member of the public phones up to provide helpful information as to an incomplete application.
This council operate a screening system where telephone calls are made longer than need be, the objective being to wear down any concerned citizen. All the more important then, that when a member of the public takes the time to call in, that on the other end of the line they find a receptive ear.
If it had been that correct notices had been served, the owner of the carriageway would have been able to explain why the proposed erection of a fence to block access would be bound to cause problems for other users of this access road. Also, the law as to access and widths would then have been on the table.
Had Mr Bending taken the time to listen to this experienced farmer and campaigner, with several appeals under her belt, he would have learned a lot, and this complaint would not have been necessary. We wonder if Mr Bending was taking the hear for Mr Williams who should have known and advised his team as to the carriageway issue?
With thanks to the Wealden Action Group and other Action Groups across the country for the supply of real case history and supporting documents.
*THAT THE PUBLIC MAY KNOW*
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