HOLDING COUNCILS TO ACCOUNT FOR THEIR DECISIONS

by The Colne Valley Collective, seeking application of law

HOLDING COUNCILS TO ACCOUNT FOR THEIR DECISIONS

by The Colne Valley Collective, seeking application of law
The Colne Valley Collective, seeking application of law
Case Owner
We are a collective of North Essex Residents looking to hold Colchester Borough Council to account.
Funded
on 02nd December 2018
£6,736
pledged of £15,000 stretch target from 21 pledges
The Colne Valley Collective, seeking application of law
Case Owner
We are a collective of North Essex Residents looking to hold Colchester Borough Council to account.

Latest: March 13, 2019

Will our Councillors keep our Council straight?

Prior to a formal application for Judicial Review the Council was required to disclose a number of documents.  Amongst the documents was an e-mail dated the day before the Planning Committee Mee…

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What we want funds for:

We are seeking funds to help mount a legal challenge in the High Court (i.e. Judicial Review) against the woeful and illegal decision of our local planning authority to grant retrospective planning permission for major unauthorised industrial development, in open countryside. 

Why we want the funds:

IF THIS DECISION IS NOT CHALLENGED - IT SENDS OUT THE MESSAGE THAT THE PLANNING SYSTEM OF THIS COUNTRY CAN BE ABUSED WITH IMPUNITY

Meeting our initial target of £6,000 allows us to initiate the action in the tight timescales. The stretch target allows us to take the case to the next stage.

We feel that the decision was made to cover up the fact that the Council were lackadaisical in their approach to planning enforcement.  Originally the owner was only allowed to use part of his barn for wholesale meat use, ancillary to his smallholding.   

The Council has now sought to reward the developer by claiming that the intentional unauthorised development, that dwarfs the consented use area many times over, should be allowed to remain because the factory allegedly now has planning merits (irrespective of the original planning conditions imposed and anything that happened in the past).  

Aims of Action :

In the public interest the planning decision should be quashed and enforcement action should ensue.

It needs to be demonstrated that the law applies to all. 

Ways you can help:

Not only can you help by donating, you can also help massively by sharing this story far and wide.

2018

2005

2000

2000

2018

Impacts:

Local:       As a result of the unauthorised development since c. 2001, which is not considered lawful, the residents of Chappel and the surrounding villages have to pay for this huge concession by having a massive industrial site, developed illegally, forced upon them. The unauthorised development attracts dangerous amounts of heavy traffic and impacts greatly on residents and the wider environment.  The owner has had no regard for residents or the law. The location is not sustainable for such large industrial premises and the articulated lorry / HGV movements through the village and past the Primary School are a really significant and material safety concern.  

 Wider:      There are serious impacts for society as a whole if we can not have confidence in our planning system and we let people get away with abusing it.

There are impacts to society if our elected representatives are not held to account.


Thanks:

Any donations however small will be gratefully received.  If you are able to help us underwrite this Public Interest matter by pledging more than £1,000 and we win in the High Court you should get a significant percentage of your money refunded through this site.  

Don't forget to share this web page with others. 

Thank you for your support.


Press and Media Contact:

You can contact us by e-mailing: TheColneValleyCollective@gmail.com


Evidence:

The following (highlighted) letter relating to development for agricultural purposes  in 2005 was obtained following a Freedom of Information Request (to the Council):


Click here for a copy of a Statutory Declaration in which the owner now claims he ceased all farming activity in 1999.

Click here for a copy of a relatively recent covering letter from the owner's solicitor, enclosing a number of statutory declarations, submitted to support the retrospective planning application.  The letter tries to suggest that the statutory declarations support claim that industrial use on the site is now lawful and immune from enforcement action through the passage of time.

Click here for a copy of one of the recent statutory declarations, made by an employee, that claims the site in question was being developed and used for industrial purposes in 2004 and has been used since.  Click  here for another.

QUESTION:    WHY DID THE OWNER REPRESENT IN 2005, TO THE PLANNING INVESTIGATION OFFICER HE WAS FARMING THE LAND AND NOW HE CLAIMS HE CEASED FARMING IN 1999 AND THE LAND WAS BEING DEVELOPED FOR INDUSTRIAL PURPOSES IN 2004?

Click  here for a copy the High Court Judgment of Jackson v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government [2015] EWHC 20 (Admin) (See paragraphs: 28 - 36, in particular 34 & 35).

Click here to open audio recording of planning meeting.

Click here to see Council's Planning Case File page.

Click  here to see Planning Committee Meeting of 8 November 2018 Agenda Pack including the Officer's Report (starting page 19). 

Click here  to see the Amendment Sheet published prior to the Planning Committee Meeting of 8 November 2018.  Note it contains a copy of the Supreme Court Judgment (involving a Mr Beesley) in respect of Welwyn Hatfield Council -v- Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government [2011] UKSC 15 and letters from objectors warning the Council that they face Judicial Review if they approve the application.  

Click here for a copy of the Decision Notice dated 9 November 2018.  Note 24 Conditions are appended to the Decision Notice. 

Click here for documentation relating to 2000/2001 Appeal (including the decision notice C/COL/99/1755 with principal conditions attached). Note Condition 1relating to the temporary and personal nature of consent was removed on appeal. Condition 9 of C/COL/99/1755 was varied by  F/COL/01/0674 in 2001 to allow 3 light commercial vehicles to leave premises after 04:30 hours. Condition 13 of permission  C/COL/99/1755 was varied by F/COL/01/0064 to refer to alternative drawing  No C642-02.  (The original drawings can be found here ). The development since 2001 was unauthorised.  The Government have been so concerned about intentional unauthorised development, that the Chief Planning Officer issued a  planning policy statement in August 2015 deploring such activity, since the opportunities to appropriately limit or mitigate past harm has been lost.

Click  here for agricultural occupancy condition relating to owner's house.



































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Update 10

The Colne Valley Collective, seeking application of law

March 13, 2019

Will our Councillors keep our Council straight?

Prior to a formal application for Judicial Review the Council was required to disclose a number of documents.  Amongst the documents was an e-mail dated the day before the Planning Committee Meeting of 8 November 2018.  The e-mail was from the Council’s Planning solicitor to the Case Officers and  advised that the planning application should be rejected if the Council have evidence of deception.  It also advised that if evidence subsequently came to light, that demonstrated that the Council had been deceived, it could take action.

Councils must act in the public interest, with integrity, objectively, accountability, openness and honestly.  On the expectation that the Council would adhere to these principles and the fact that it had now disclosed; that it recognised that a remedy existed, as an alternative to Judicial Review (which was a last resort),  the focus was on providing the Council with requisite evidence upon which to act.

Since the Planning Committee Meeting, over 40 pages of fresh evidence has been submitted for the Council to consider.   Instead of adhering to the principles that would allow all the evidence in support of a case of positive deception to be tested in the public gaze, the Council refuses to have regard to this evidence and act accordingly.  This is contrary to the public interest and infers it has something to hide.

Mr Vipond, a Director at Colchester Borough Council, in an e-mail dated 11 March 2019, now claims that the Planning Committee were specifically advised [by Case Officers] to ignore the possibility that the applicant may have positively deceived the Council. This means that the Planning Committee decision was predicated on the assumption that there had not been any deception, without any consideration as to the truth.  Furthermore Councillor Liddy, at the Committee Meeting advised that Members of the Committee were not there to determine whether there had or had not been any sort of deception (no Council Official intervened say Councillor Liddy was wrong).  Thus the issue of deception was never determined then and the Council refuse to look at it now.

It is now known that the Chair of the Planning Committee wrote to the Council, the day after the Committee Meeting, expressing concerns that “The Officers’ decision not to consider the breach of  the Law”  had effectively  imposed "handcuffs" on the Committee to prevent it establishing the real facts.   She also commented that it was the responsibility of the Planning Committee to show that Law in action but  “had the uneasy feeling that local residents had been short- changed in that no official recognition had been given to their genuine reasons for objecting“.  She had asked a number of questions of the Council but is not known if she got satisfactory answers to those. 

We would like our Councillors to keep asking questions and ensure that the Council is called to account and made to adhere to the “principles” of public life.  The Council, the Planning Committee and Councillors are brought into disrepute if they condone breach of the Law and/or are seen as complicit in a cover up or if they simply do nothing.  “Silence becomes cowardice when occasion demands speaking out the whole truth and acting accordingly.” (Mahatma Gandhi )  

Mr Vipond tries to suggest that the applicant did not benefit from undertaking unauthorised development. The applicant clearly did benefit in numerous ways, including the non-payment of appropriate rates.  Mr Vipond refuses to acknowledge the distinction between intentional unauthorised development (a material planning consideration) and intentional unauthorised development as a result of positive deception (which is subject to the public policy law principle, confirmed in the Supreme Court, that no one should benefit from their own wrong doing).

We want to know when the Council is going to start being sincere. We want to know when the Council is going to act on the evidence supplied.


Update 9

The Colne Valley Collective, seeking application of law

Jan. 2, 2019

Council acknowledges remedy

As part of the pre-action protocol, prior to an application for Judicial Review, the Council were obliged to disclose relevant documents.

As the Council failed to disclose any documents in connection with any investigation relating to the evidence and allegations of misrepresentation/positive deception, the presumption must be the Council never investigated the evidence properly, in accordance with its own policies,  having regard to relevant case law.  If it had the findings would have been recorded and disclosed.

It appears that the Council's position that there was no evidence of wrongdoing was predicated purely on the misguided, subjective opinion of the Case Officer without appropriate legal input from the Council's Planning Solicitor.

It is highly significant that; the day before the planning committee meeting, the Council's Planning Solicitor inferred she had not examined the allegations of wrongdoing but had trusted the Case Officer had. She also explicitly acknowledged, that if evidence of reprehensible behaviour came to light then there are appropriate mechanisms for the Council to take action.

The fact of the matter is; that evidence already exists but the Council exercised "willful blindness" in assessing it objectively in accordance with the correct legal tests.

We are calling for an impartial review of the evidence and action to be taken as appropriate, to maintain public confidence in the planning system in the public interest.

We would grateful for further donations to help cover ongoing continuing legal advice. 

Update 8

The Colne Valley Collective, seeking application of law

Dec. 12, 2018

Failure to investigate?

A long time prior to the planning decision, the Council was presented with strong evidence indicating positive deception, which undermined the planning process.

It is not apparent that the Council ever bothered to investigate this evidence properly. 

The Council’s Enforcement Policy , at Appendix A, states it takes breaches seriously and it contains a presumption of prosecution where evidence indicates any of the following: there are significant consequences for the environment, persistent breaches of regulatory requirements, failure to supply information without reasonable excuse or knowingly or recklessly supplying false or misleading information, and obstruction of Council staff.

"Deceit" and "fraudulent misrepresentation" are types of fraud. The public interest principle “fraud unravels all”  is derived from Lord Denning’s infamous statement in Lazarus Estates Ltd v Beasley . He stated that:  “No court in this land will allow a person to keep an advantage which he has obtained by fraud. No judgment of a court, no order of a Minister, can be allowed to stand if it has been obtained by fraud. Fraud unravels everything. The court is careful not to find fraud unless it is distinctly pleaded and proved; but once it is proved, it vitiates judgments, contracts and all transactions whatsoever…”

 

Update 7

The Colne Valley Collective, seeking application of law

Dec. 4, 2018

FOI request suggests failure to pay correct Rates

A response to a Freedom of Information request to the Council, received in the last year, states:

“No Non-Domestic Rating completion certificates have been issued in respect of the premises in the period since and including 2001”.

A check of the HM Revenue & Customs 2010 Rating List reveals that the property was described as “Workshop and Premises” and had a Rateable Value of £28,250 based on a Base Rate of £35 per sqm/unit. The total area of the declared buildings including storage containers and portable buildings is 842 sqm.

We know from Section 18 of the Planning Application that the property now has a floor area of some 2,258.5 sqm (some 2.7 times the declared area).

This suggests that the correct Rateable Value is in the order of £75,000 (i.e. £46,750 greater than £28,250).

Given that the Non-Domestic Rate Multiplier is generally well in excess of £0.40 it is estimated that there has been an underpayment of at least (RV £46,750 x £0.40) £18,700 a year.

Taken over the time the applicant has claimed that the majority of the buildings have been in existence, conservatively this is estimated to represent an under payment of at least £200,000.

Aren’t Colchester Borough Council worried about this?

No wonder there are insufficient funds to repair the roads.


Update 6

The Colne Valley Collective, seeking application of law

Dec. 4, 2018

Initial Target reached - Further funds needed to underpin future potential costs

Thank you to all of those who helped us reach our initial target of £6,000, so quickly, to enable us to mount our challenge - The Council have now been notified of that challenge and have been invited to consent to the quashing of the decision.

We still need to raise further funds to help underpin existing and potential further legal costs.  

Please keep spreading the word and encourage others to donate and spread the word too.  Many thanks.

There is a point of principle at stake here. The Council should not be rewarding and condoning those who intentionally breach planning controls, by using deception.

The Chair of the Planning Committee stated: "..I believe it has been shown that the applicant knew perfectly well what he was doing. And what concerns me is the message we will be sending to future applicants, because if this is approved, how can we not approve every other retrospective application that comes before us, it will make it extremely difficult."


Update 5

The Colne Valley Collective, seeking application of law

Dec. 3, 2018

Articulated lorries still passing local primary school at drop off time

This picture was taken this morning as children make their way to school.  


 

Update 4

The Colne Valley Collective, seeking application of law

Dec. 3, 2018

Our Solicitors issue challenge to the Council

Our solicitors wrote to the Council on Friday 30 November 2018, inviting the Council to quash the planning permission dated 9 November 2018, so that it can be correctly determined in light of all the relevant facts, which were severely lacking, when the matter went to the Committee on 8 November 2018.  The Council have until 4pm on 14 December 2018 to respond.  If the response is unsatisfactory we have until 21 December 2018 to lodge a formal application with the High Court. 

The pre-action protocol letter was sent with the grounds for challenging the decision attached, together with a draft consent order.  These grounds were drafted by Counsel from Landmark Chambers.

Meeting our initial target of £6,000 has allowed us meet our initial costs.  We are looking to raise further funds to help underpin further legal funding requirements.

Update 3

The Colne Valley Collective, seeking application of law

Nov. 26, 2018

Draft Minutes do not reflect what was said at the Committee Meeting

Colchester Borough Council has published the minutes of the Planning Committee Meeting of 8 November 2018 - these are due to be signed off/confirmed on 13 December 2018.  

We are really concerned as these minutes (Click here) do not reflect accurately what was said ( Click here to open audio recording of planning meeting). 

Update 2

The Colne Valley Collective, seeking application of law

Nov. 26, 2018

Evidence of Previous Transgressions

We are now posting a copy of a previous letter from the Council's Planning Investigation Officer dated 1999.  It seems that every time the owner breaches planning control the Council simply roll's over.


Update 1

The Colne Valley Collective, seeking application of law

Nov. 23, 2018

Transcription of Audio Recording

We have now had the recording of the Planning Committee Meeting of the 8 November 2018 transcribed - It is hoped to make this available to all soon.

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