August 6 2002
The truth is a foreign country
A recent editorial in the Mercury posed the question: "Can the County Council be relied on to tell the truth?"
From my own experience the answer is an emphatic NO.
Rarely are you told an outright lie, though I have examples on my files where the line between mere obfuscation and blatant untruth has been crossed.
But, as the Mercury pointed out, the usual tactic is to find some minor terminological inexactitude in the question and use that to wriggle out of giving a straight answer.
Another favoured ploy is to engage you in a long baseline rally by delaying the response for as long as possible and then failing to address your questions in the eventual reply, or, in rugby parlance, slowing the game down by kicking you into touch.
But, as my old games master used to say, unless you can win the lineout, kicking the ball into touch is a losing strategy.
Unequal before the law
At the recent meeting of the County Council, the members debated an application to convert an implement shed near Mathry into a cottage.
The implement shed, which is in the open countryside and of concrete block construction with an asbestos roof, clearly fell outside the Council's policy EV18 which allows only "... the conversion of appropriate sound, traditional buildings for residential use".
Policy EV18 has five sections the first of which states that development will only be permitted if: 1) The building can be genuinely, converted to accommodate the proposed use without extensive alterations, rebuilding and/or extension. In addition a structural survey will be required to establish that the building is structurally sound (my emphasis).
Despite strong advice from the planning officers that it was contrary to policy this application had found favour with the planning committee at its meeting a couple of weeks earlier where it had been decided that: "The building contained an element of stone structure [the concrete block walls were built on the remains of a former building] and that in part it came within the criteria of Local Plan Policy EV18."
The Director, Roger Barrett-Evans, told full Council that the application contravened Policy EV18 and should be rejected.
Cllr Tom Sinclair drew attention to difference in the treatment of the Mathry case to that, 18 months or so earlier, at Enfield, Portfield Gate (see - A cunning plan) when Mr Barrett-Evans had told members that an application could be within policy even though it contravened Policy EV18(1) provided it complied with the other four sections of the policy. Indeed, as reported on this website, Mr Barrett-Evans - who is not a qualified planner - had bent over backwards to get the Enfield application through despite the Head of Development Control, David Lawrence, stating, in his report to members, that the original building was "very derelict" and the proposal was, in effect for a new dwelling in the open countryside and was, therefore, contrary to policy
As Cllr Sinclair pointed out, if the state of the original building was immaterial, as suggested by Mr Barrett-Evans in the case of Enfield, there seemed no reason why the fact that the Mathry building was constructed of concrete blocks should rule it out.
After all, he said, it was a fundamental principle of justice that everyone should recieve equal treatment before the law.
I may be pure coincidence that just a few days after I recorded that Mr Barrett-Evans and the Enfield applicant's agent, Mr Brangwyn Howell, were former colleagues in Dyfed County Council(see- Portfield Gate) the County Council's Head of Marketing and Communications Dai "Spin" Thomas wrote to my website provider, Freenetname, claiming that my remarks about Mr Barrett-Evans were "overtly defamatory and factually inaccurate" and that both they and Old Grumpy were liable to be sued.
Not surprisingly, Freenetname, who, as their name suggests, were not charging for the facility, removed my site from the Web.
However, I soon found a new provider and posted exactly the same information to my new site and I haven't heard a word from Dai "Spin" or anyone else since.
What about the workers?
At last week's meeting of the County Planning Committee, Cllr George Grey complained that the normal practice of reporting appeal decisions to the committee had not been followed in respect a site near Tiers Cross.
Asked if this omission was the result of an oversight or deliberate change of policy, Mr Roger Barrett-Evans replied that it had been decided that, in future, such reports would be excluded from the minutes, but offered reassurance that the documents would be available for inspection in the members' room.
Unfortunately, none of the assembled tribunes of the people thought to ask about the public's right to know.
Thanks for the memory
Last week, I wrote about the Independent Political (sic) Group's secret group meeting on Wednesday 17 July where, my moles tell me, members discussed their stance on two planning applications that had earlier been approved by the Planning Committee and were due for consideration the following day by full Council.
Seeking more information about what had gone on, I rang Bryan Phillips the vice-chairman of the Planning Committee when the following conversation took place.
Old Grumpy: Were you at the secret group meeting on the Wednesday before full Council?
B P: Yes!
O G: Did you discuss the two planning applications that were on the agenda for full Council?
B P: I can't remember that - perhaps I'd gone out for a puff [cigarette].
O G: But you are vice-chairman of planning - surely you would be present when matters concerning your committee were discussed?
B P: I can't remember.
Helpful, or what?
Stretched out on the kitchen floor the other day, my thoughts turned to Ester Ranzen.
Ah! I hear you say - too much Chilean Merlot and a thing about girls with sticky-out teeth.
Sorry to disappoint you, but the reason for this odd combination of events was much more mundane than that.
I was on the floor because we had reached the all-fall-down stage of a game of ring-a-ring-of-roses in which I was participating at the insistance of my three-year-old grand-daughter (four in October).
When she was younger, I could get away with dropping down on one knee but now she is "a big girl" she insists on total authenticity.
And where does the saintly Ester come into this? I hear you ask.
Well, just a couple of days before I found myself in this undignified position, I had listened to La Ranzen honking on about childrens' rights on the Today programme.
As I grovelled around on the floor, it occurred to me that it is us grandparents that need protection.
Saying of the week Beware the fury of a patient man. (John Dryden 1631-1700)
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