(This page last updated 12th March 2012).

Overview

We (the Bettws Newydd Opposition Group, or BNOG) have submitted a request to the Local Government Ombudsman for Wales that his office investigate the unsatisfactory handling of complaints, relating to Bettws Newydd, by the Independent Monitoring Officer of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority.

View from public footpath above Bettws Newydd

Our concerns

We are asking for the following concerns to be investigated:

  • The Monitoring Officer’s Report was limited from the outset to investigating failures in processes and procedures
  • The Authority has not since responded to several requests by BNOG, that points of maladministration not properly covered by the Monitoring Officer’s Report and which cannot be explained by failures of processes and procedures, but were due to maladministration by Officers, be brought before the Scrutiny Committee for possible disciplinary action.
  • No Report was prepared from the Head of Section to inform the Monitoring Officer’s Investigation
  • No Draft of the Monitoring Officer’s Report was made available to complainants for corrections to misunderstandings and errors of fact
  • BNOG was allowed only a few days to view the Monitoring Officer’s report before it was presented to the Authority
  • BNOG’s request for further time to be given for consideration of the Report, before any resolution by the Authority, was not heeded.
  • The complaint from one individual member of BNOG, first submitted in February 2008, was not covered in the Monitoring Officer’s Report, though the Chief Executive had promised in December 2010 that this would be the case, and has still not been investigated
  • At no point was BNOG advised that complaints could be taken to the Ombudsman if we were not satisfied.

Points of maladministration

The points of maladministration that BNOG seeks to be brought to the Scrutiny Committee of Pembrokeshire Coast National Park are:-

  1. Wrongful claims by Officers of the development’s compliance with the 2006 approved plans. On 26th July 2007 the Case Officer wrote to the Developer stating “I am able to confirm that the development is being carried out according to the approved drawings” It was very clearly apparent at that time that this was not the case. The Developer, his Agents and Counsel have all since conceded that Building Regulations’ drawings were being followed (and not those approved for planning purposes) and have agreed (in evidence to the Appeals Inquiry) that the development was unauthorised, in fact not even implemented, and a retrospective planning application should have been submitted in 2007 to retain the building. Subsequently, the then Head of Development Management (HDM) wrote to the Town Council and complainants in August 2007 with similar statements claiming compliance, and the Officer Report to the Development Management Committee (DMC) under Enforcement and Other Matters in October 2007 stated ‘‘The fact that the steel structure has been erected in accordance with the approved plan means that that part of the permission having been implemented cannot be revoked’. An application in 2007 was highly unlikely to have been approved as can be inferred from the fact that, having at last visited the development, the Committee refused retrospective applications in 2009 (when a junior Officer had decided that an application was necessary whilst the Case Officer was on leave) and again in 2010.
  2. Misconduct by the Case Officer in the handling of Levels. It is now known, only from the Report of the Monitoring Officer in 2011, that a verbal agreement was made between the Developer and the Case Officer in 2006, on the entrance floor level for the replacement dwelling, even before planning permission was granted and in breach of a planning condition. The entrance level agreed by the Case Officer was a storey higher AOD than the entrance level of the original dwelling on the site and thus a storey higher AOD than could reasonably be expected from the application drawings. This level was withheld from the Development Management Committee (DMC), Newport Town Council, the public and the Authority's own expensive consultants until the third application was submitted in 2010. When revealed, it was a major factor in the Inspector allowing the Appeals. Had the DMC been informed, even in broad principle, about this level when the application was first brought before the DMC in 2006, the application would have been recognised as a clear departure from the Joint Unitary Development Plan and refused.

We have raised our request that this maladministration be brought to the PCNPA authority on several occasions, as detailed in the news page. Having had no response to recent requests, we posted our request to the Ombudsman on 5th March.

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