AN elderly couple are facing imminent eviction from their one time dream country cottage in Carmarthenshire as a result of what they allege has been a failure on the part of Carmarthenshire County Council to enforce planning laws.
Eddie Roberts and Patricia Breckman moved to the area of Maesybont a number of years ago with dreams of opening a cattery. It was the ideal location for the retired couple but within weeks of moving in they became embroiled in a planning row involving their neighbour Andrew Thomas of Blaenpant Farm and the planning department of Carmarthenshire County Council. The story made national news and featured in a BBC documentary with the couple eventually receiving an apology from the then Police and Crime Commissioner Christopher Salmon for the way in which they had been treated.
Years on from that the couple claim they still have no answers from the planning department as to why the areas of land concerned on Blaenpant Farm are still in breach of planning laws despite the owner having been taken through the courts, fined and ordered to reinstate the land. It is alleged that Magistrates had also been told the land had been restored when it had not. Some of the land happens to be Special Areas of Conservation (SACs), which are strictly protected sites designated under the EC Habitats Directive.
Mrs Breckman claims that despite years of trying to bring the case to a close and have some form of justice imposed on her neighbour for the years they had to suffer as a result of breaches of planning laws, she says that those charged with enforcing the laws have washed their hands of the matter and she alleges, this is a catalogue of lies, cover ups and corruption, which go to the heart of Welsh Government and the office of the First Minister.
Mrs Breckman says she has come to the end of the road and is resigned to the fact that
‘The lies will go on and on no matter what evidence I produce.’
She claims that she now finds herself being threatened with legal action by the CEO Mark James and that she is unhappy that the Monitoring Officer for the council is allegedly not acting on her behalf and investigating breaches in the Code of Conduct for serving officers.
The couple claim that neither of the many any elements and layers protecting them from breaches of planning have come into force during their long battle to get some closure on the case.
Despite providing overwhelming evidence of the breaches in planning, unauthorised activity and failure to enforce planning laws at Blaenpant Farm dating back to 2001 the couple claim that the county council have been complicit and guilty of neglect in their duties, which as a result they claim has ruined their lives.
In a letter to the CEO Mark James Mrs Breckman said: “You have contributed in a major way to destroying our lives and the plans we had in condoning all of his abuses over many years. These abuses which date back to 2001 had hugely damaging repercussions for us as you are fully aware.
The consequences of the years of cover-up amounted to the total destruction of the life we had planned for which I hold you totally responsible.”
The case has been picked up by local Plaid Cymru County Councillor Cefin Campbell, Plaid Cymru’s AM Adam Price and Jonathan Edwards MP. Despite the unequivocal help the couple say they have received from Plaid Cymru representatives they claim that the council leader Emlyn Dole has washed his hands of the matter. The leader of the council sent the following letter to Mrs Breckman recently.
Dear Mrs Breckman,
I have been reviewing the e-mails which you have sent me, or copied me in on, over the past few months.
The common theme in all your correspondence to me is that I am deceitful and complicit in ignoring and covering up misconduct and corruption by officers. You will know that this is a very serious allegation to make against me as Leader of the Council. Your latest attack on my integrity is based on your assertion that a hardstanding which was meant to have been removed in accordance with an Enforcement Notice never was removed, and that to my knowledge (because you have told me so) the course of justice was perverted when a Magistrates Court was told that the Notice had been complied with on the eve of trial.
You have been asserting this for the best part of a year, but as far as I am aware, you have only started to adduce (sic) photographs which you rely upon in relation to the removal or otherwise of the hardstanding in the past few weeks, despite their being dated 25th December 2012. You have been told by the Head of Administration and Law that the photographs you have sent in have been referred to the Authority’s planners for them to consider and comment upon, yet you continue to accuse me of covering up criminal offences.
Waiting for the planners’ views on the photographs you have submitted is, in my opinion, a totally reasonable and responsible thing to do, but you continue to interpret that as my continuing to cover-up the truth. I consider your correspondence to be abusive and I have therefore decided that I will no longer be responding to you. Please therefore regard this e-mail as bringing the correspondence between us to an end. I appreciate that this response, in itself, will probably provoke a further allegation of covering up corruption from you, but I will not be responding.
The Authority itself, via its officers, will provide a response to the photographs which you have provided in due course.
Cllr. Emlyn Dole.
Leader of the Council
It appears the the CEO of the County Council has also washed his hands of the matter despite there being clear evidence supporting the claims made by the Breckmans. In a letter sent to Mrs Breckman in November 2017 the CEO wrote:
I shall not be responding to any further correspondence of this sort.
I shall also be instructing Ms Rees Jones and other officers not to respond to your false allegations and abuse.
Your unpleasant and defamatory remarks about me and my staff have reached the point where I now place you on notice that continuation may well invite legal action.
Whilst I appreciate the difficult time you have had with your neighbour, your numerous complaints about the Council have been investigated and where the Ombudsman did uphold some of those complaints, we have complied with his requirements in that respect, which was some considerable time ago.
Mark James CBE
and in July 2018 the CEO responded:
Dear Mrs Breckman,
I shall not be wasting any further time repeating what you have been told before.
I shall also not be wasting any time responding to your nonsensical slanderous assertions
The First Minister Carwyn Jones responded to Mrs Breckman by saying it was not for him to intervene but for local councils to address.
The couple’s dreams of an idyllic country cottage housing a cattery have long vanished and today they sit amongst boxes ready to leave the home they put all of their life’s work into. It seems wholly unjust that this couple have lost so much as a result of what may be termed a ‘failure’ on the part of the county council to protect them from a neighbour who has clearly flouted the planning laws of the county by operating large scale quarrying and an unauthorised haulage business at the neighbouring property while at the same time the same authority has implemented severe measures on those who placed small horse shelters on agricultural land.
What started as unauthorised activity and a breach of planning laws at Blaenpant Farm has left the ‘victims’ Mrs Breckman and Eddie Roberts as the losing party in a process, which is meant to protect us all from those who seek to abuse the law and destroy the countryside. It is a warning to us all that we are at the mercy of bureaucrats and non elected officers who are meant to be governed by a code of conduct, the Human Rights Act and the seven Nolan Principles. Neither the Public Ombudsman for Wales nor even the First Minister for Wales appears to have any sway over what happens at local or county council level, which begs the question, ‘What are we paying them for’?
You can watch our special interview with Patricia Breckman here: