by Pat Dodd Racher
Why do whistleblowers suffer so much indignity and financial damage?
There is one case I have been following for seven years, but its origins go back 16 years to 2003. Authorities said it was a dispute between neighbours, and so it was, but also so much more.
Maybe there is an assumption by some that newcomers from over the Severn Bridge are more likely to be at fault than local people already living next door. Maybe the police don’t ask enough questions when an aggrieved resident accuses a neighbour of harassment. Maybe organisations are more concerned about damage to their reputations than about harm resulting from their inaction. In the case of retired couple Trisha Breckman and Eddie Roberts of Pantycastell Fach, Maesybont, Carmarthenshire, failings under all these headings, and more, have led to them experiencing years and years of victimisation.
Evidence has been studiously ignored to the point of asking why amass proof, why not just put Trisha and Eddie into Medieval ducking stools, and tell them if they drown they are innocent and if they survive, they are guilty? Damnation either way!
The ‘fake news’ phenomenon is hugely damaging. Take the crowds, or absence of them, at President Donald Trump’s inauguration in January 2017. Photographic evidence showed that Trump’s crowd was smaller than the crowd of his predecessor, Barack Obama. “Fake News,” trumpeted Trump, who in this way dismisses facts he doesn’t like, aided by legitimate fears that photographs can so easily be altered. Suspicions grow that all evidence, including evidence obtained by Trisha and Eddie, may be suspect, and that is a big step towards ignoring it.
The adversarial legal system in England and Wales does not help, either. The winners are the lawyers who present their arguments to greatest effect, so the central skill is persuasion, not investigation to illuminate the salient facts.
Dream cottage blues
Back in 2003, Trisha Breckman and Eddie Roberts from Sussex bought Pantycastell Fach, a 6.5-acre smallholding at Maesybont, from Mrs Ann Gifford, who was selling up after only six months. She had purchased from Mr John Lawday, who had alerted Carmarthenshire County Council’s planning department to unauthorised industrial operations at Blaenpant Farm, the next-door property. Arthur Bleasdale, who lived nearby at Ffynnon Goch, had also complained to the council that Blaenpant was the scene of industrial operations, and his concerns were logged. But pre-sale searches did not discover these complaints.
Trisha made a Freedom of Information request for data on complaints relating to Blaenpant which had reached the council’s planning department, and was given a file documenting complaint after complaint. But according to the council, Blaenpant Farm was merely a contact address for a haulage business operated elsewhere.
The pretty setting of Pantycastell Fach.
Trisha had been looking forward to a quiet life on the smallholding with its pretty cottage, and enough land for her elderly Connemara mare Minnie and for the cattery she hoped to establish – and for which she obtained planning permission. The couple paid mostly in cash but also took out a mortgage to fund construction of the cattery.
The cattery was never built, because of problems which emerged about a year after the couple moved in, and which left Trisha feeling too nervous to remain in the cottage on her own. This meant that Eddie, who had been intending to live in Sussex for part of the week and repay the mortgage with earnings from his taxi business there, decided he had to live in the cottage full-time, so that Trisha would not be alone.
Why had Trisha become anxious? She was embroiled in a dispute with their neighbours, a dispute which took over her life, and which diminished the pair’s financial resources so much that the only way they could repay the mortgage is to sell the property — but their long-running history of dispute with the next-door landowner, which would have to be declared to an intending purchaser, depressed the market value. Estate agent Ewan Davies of BJP said on TV in 2006 that the property had lost at least 30% of its market value, and Dewi Price of Roderick Price estimated a value drop of a similar amount.
Blaenpant next door was, since 2001, home to Andrew Thomas and the late Karen Bowen Thomas. Karen ran a heavy haulage business, KBHS Ltd, operating without planning permission on what was supposed to be a farm. Andrew Thomas, a scrap metal wholesaler, is the main owner of A J T Recycling Ltd, a company with almost £1.5 million in shareholders’ funds at the end of November 2018.
KBHS Ltd, which was dissolved in 2014, had a website stating the company’s base as Blaenpant Farm, and describing a large contract undertaken in 2002 for the removal of 120,000 cubic metres of material over a 13-week period. The products and services listed included demolition, excavation, groundworks, scrap metal and tipper hire. This was an industrial operation, open seven days a week, Monday to Sunday, and not light industrial either.
Lots of planning applications, but none for industrial operations
Seventeen planning applications relating to Blaenpant, between 1998 and 2011, are recorded in Carmarthenshire’s planning department. Not one of them applies for any industrial activity. All but one are ‘agricultural’ or ‘agricultural/equestrian’ in nature. The first application (E/01257), dated August 21st 1998 and from Mr R Jones, was to convert a farm building into a dwelling. This was refused. The next application (TG/01947), on July 26th 2002 and by Karen Bowen Thomas, was a prior notification of permitted agricultural or forestry development, and the planning department decided that the work, to level the land on top of an old quarry, could go ahead without any planning permission.
A few days later, on July 31st 2002, another quite small application (TG/02011) was received, for a new access from the public road, and was approved. After a gap of 18 months, on January 23rd 2004, Karen Bowen Thomas submitted a further notification of permitted development for agriculture or forestry (E/05992), this time to import about 500 tons of subsoil and topsoil. Planning officers agreed that this was indeed permitted development.
In April 2004 came another notification (E/06708) for intended permitted development, for an agricultural implement store and hay shed, 99 feet by 50 feet. This did not get the go-ahead, and Karen Bowen Thomas was told to submit a formal planning application. She did so in July, asking (E/07519) for a store for farm machinery and hay, but the planning committee said no. Refusal was recommended to the committee by planning officer Ceri Davies, who explained that there was “insufficient justification for the proposed development at this location due to the lack of agricultural activity at the farm unit” and also because the applicant had failed to demonstrate that the shed was reasonably necessary for agriculture.
So back in 2004 the council was well aware of a lack of agricultural activity at Blaenpant.
Karen Bowen Thomas appealed, and probably to the annoyance of the county council, the appeal was upheld. The shed was built, with the help of another permitted development (E/09576) from the council, for the excavation of quarry overburden and rock and the use of the material for levelling the ground on which the building would be constructed.
Next, in October 2005, Mr and Mrs Thomas applied (E/11544) to convert a former cowshed to a farm office and tack room, and received permission. In August 2006, they applied (E/14109) for a detached garage, which was allowed. They were not so fortunate with a much larger application (E/14145) the same month, for a cow shed 97 feet by 30 feet, which was refused for lack of agricultural activity and no demonstrable need for a large cow shed.
After a minor application (E/14648) for roof alterations on another building, which was approved, the cow shed application was resubmitted in all but name, this time (E/17981) as a notification of permitted development and in the guise of a hay and implement shed, a little smaller at 78 feet by 30 feet but on the same site as the proposed building in application E/14145. This would be the second large implement and hay store, on a farm where there was a “lack of agricultural activity”. The planning department agreed that this was indeed permitted agricultural development not requiring any planning permission, and the building was constructed.
The first and second hay and implement storage buildings had a total length of 177 feet, and sufficient indoor space to store a substantial number of tractors or other vehicles. The complex would be far less noticeable if it were screened with trees, and if attractively landscaped could look smart on an industrial estate, but it is not located on a business park. The home of Trisha Breckman and Eddie Roberts is immediately to the south, accessed by a track which crosses Blaenpant land.
The applications continued. In January 2008 Mr and Mrs Thomas requested permitted development rights (E/18176) for a new road, opening into the access track to Trisha Breckman’s and Eddie Roberts’ home. Planners told them that formal permission would be necessary, and the road was not constructed.
Later the same year, in September, Mr and Mrs Thomas asked (E/19928) for a replacement agricultural building, which was allowed as the footprint was only slightly larger than the existing structure. In July 2009 Mr Thomas, who by then was a widower, applied retrospectively (E/21494) for a hardstanding area adjoining the Carmel Transmitter Mast, for the “parking and storage of agricultural vehicles and implements”, but this was turned down and the subsequent appeal was dismissed.
In rejecting the application, the planning team revealed some knowledge about the nature of activities at Blaenpant, stating “It is acknowledged that the farm complex is occasionally utilised to park some of the applicant’s haulage vehicles”, but justified this as “permitted under the provisions of the General Permitted Development Order”. This is a long document but Part 4, Class B, states that “the use of any land for any purpose for not more than 28 days in total in any calendar year” is permitted. The applicant’s undoing was the fact that the storage area by the mast had already been hard-surfaced, and was being used for parking vehicles, storage containers and a “considerable amount of deposited materials”, and so planners concluded the development was “excessive in scale particularly due to the lack of existing agricultural activity currently taking place on the land”.
Finally, in November 2011, Mr Thomas received permission (E/25234) for changing the use of one building from agriculture to mixed equine stabling and agriculture, and for the parking of equestrian vehicles, and (E/25246) also for resurfacing an access to fields with clean stone.
Trisha Breckman: sixteen stressful years.
Trisha Breckman and Eddie Roberts are victims of the council’s initial belief that Blaenpant was an ordinary farm, and of the determination to cling on to that belief in public when officers’ responses to the applications for big new buildings show their awareness that Blaenpant was definitely not an ordinary farm. They are also victims of the very common shoot-the-messenger syndrome. When you don’t want to deal with bad news, you might yell at the messenger, even land a right hook and floor him, because doing that seems a whole lot easier, and more immediately satisfying, than resolving the underlying issue.
Threats and bullying
There are videos about the Breckman/Roberts case on You Tube. They include five broadcasts of the TV news programme Wales This Week, between February 2006 and March 2008, which show in horrible detail the harassment suffered by Trisha and Eddie. That harassment, emanating from the ‘farm’ next door, included using motorway crash barriers to narrow the access track from 14 feet to nine, so narrow that the Fire Brigade complained that it was too narrow for a fire engine. Trisha and Eddie had a legal right of way over the track, which was part of the property of Blaenpant Farm. Two solid gates with locks were erected across the track, making it difficult for Trisha and Eddie to leave their cottage. An old, dilapidated removal-van type lorry was parked on the boundary close to the cottage and not removed until 2017; a large board on stilts blocked the view from a bedroom; two pigs called Eddie and Trisha were put in a pen directly under human Trisha and Eddie’s bedroom window. The TV programme in February 2006 showed Karen Bowen Thomas telling Trisha pig not to poke her nose in where it wasn’t wanted.
An old heavy goods vehicle loomed above Trisha’s and Eddie’s home. It has been removed.
“I didn’t have any cross words with neighbours in the first year,” said Trisha. “The arguments with them only began once they had altered our right of way. That happened after Adam Price, then our MP, wrote to the county council in November 2004 about the complaints over unlawful, noisy industrial operations such as quarrying and heavy haulage at Blaenpant, when there was no planning permission for such activities. The Thomases appear to have been told that Adam had written and took offence. They began the harassment immediately, and narrowed our right of way in January 2005.
“The quarrying was within the Cernydd Carmel Special Area of Conservation, and should not have been done without permission from both the county council and the then-Countryside Council for Wales, which since 2013 has been part of Natural Resources Wales.”
Special Areas of Conservation are approved by the European Union and are supposed to be protected and preserved. Cernydd Carmel is a limestone ridge with important topographical and biological features, “but at Blaenpant the limestone was quarried unlawfully and stone was removed,” said Trisha.
Authorities turned on the victims
What to do? “The council advised us to collect evidence of the unauthorised activities,” said Trisha. “So we started to film the haulage lorries, including lorries carrying quarried stone, and sent this evidence to planning enforcement.” The film evidence convinced ITV Wales’ current affairs programme Wales This Week, which reported on the dispute multiple times between June 2005 and March 2008, and also persuaded BBC1 Wales, which broadcast The Good Life Gone Bad in October 2012. The programmes are on You Tube for anyone to watch.
But the council did nothing.
Andrew and Karen, stepping up their campaign, complained that Trisha’s and Eddie’s filming was harassment against them. They took their accusation to the police, and soon two officers were knocking on the door at Pantycastell Fach, asking for the films, arresting Trisha and removing her to a police cell. The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) decided that the filming showed Trisha and Eddie harassing Andrew and Karen, which suggests that either they did not view the films or did not understand them, because the opposite was clear to the Wales This Week team. In the end, the CPS realised their mistake, but not before heaping more pressure on beleaguered Eddie and Trisha.
Was it sloppy assessment? Deliberate bias? Reluctance to confront the aggressors? Andrew Thomas was convicted in 2007 of assaulting two women the previous year, two women who were trying to stop him from insulting Eddie Roberts as Eddie sat in his taxi in Carmarthen. Andrew Thomas pushed over witness Katy Griffiths, and Carey Worthy, a passer-by, said it was “hideous behaviour”.
Accusations from Andrew and Karen resulted in Trisha being arrested six times. Almost ten years on in 2016, the-then Police and Crime Commissioner for Dyfed Powys Police, Christopher Salmon, made a full, unreserved apology – an apology which Trisha and Eddie said went far beyond any statement made by Carmarthenshire County Council, the local planning authority in the case.
The police apology, signed by Simon Prince, the Chief Constable, and Christopher Salmon, the Police and Crime Commissioner for Dyfed Powys, includes these words:
“It is quite clear that you have been severely let down by the authorities (my emphasis) and for the part played by Dyfed Powys Police in this we apologise whole heartedly.”
In addition to the apology from Dyfed Powys Police, Trisha Breckman received a further apology from Christopher Salmon, as follows:
“We are apologising for all the hurt and pain caused throughout your experience, including any implied attack on your integrity.
“I do not want to lose the force of an unbounded apology. However it absolutely applies to any unsubstantiated comment or accusation, implied or otherwise, against your integrity. We acknowledge they are hurtful, embarrassing and deeply personal. For that we are sorry.
“Officers will continue to do all they can to help you with any ongoing issues. You are not accused of anything and your integrity is not in doubt.”
Despite this apology, the repercussions of officialdom’s hostility remain, and include financial problems which the couple cannot easily resolve because Trisha and Eddie have advanced in age, Trisha to 75 and Eddie to 82.
Although Carmarthenshire County Council refused to accept officially that planning regulations were being flouted at Blaenpant, Rhodri Glyn Thomas (Plaid Cymru), the former Welsh Assembly member for Carmarthen East & Dinefwr, and current county councillor Cefin Campbell (Plaid Cymru), both accepted that Trisha and Eddie have suffered because of intransigence by the county council, and supported them through difficult times.
The haulage business at Blaenpant, operating when Trisha and Eddie moved in to Pantycastell Fach in 2003, did not exist in the eyes of the county council. The then-Planning Enforcement Manager, Brian Canning, and the then-Head of Planning Services, Eifion Bowen, said there was no breach of planning regulations. Therefore there was no industrial business operating without the need to pay business rates (because farms are exempt). Instead, officers in the planning department accused Trisha and Eddie of making baseless complaints. Eventually the pensioner couple were put on a list of persistent complainants and for a time were stopped from contacting council staff and councillors, with the exception of one designated person, the then-Director of Regeneration and Leisure, Dave Gilbert.
The council’s verdict that the scale of industrial activity on the yard at Blaenpant was acceptable for a farm meant that the council, and for a time the police, took the side of Andrew Thomas and the late Karen Bowen Thomas when they, enraged that Trisha and Eddie had complained about industrial operations on Blaenpant, embarked upon their well-documented campaign of harassment.
“Unlawful” – verdict of Planning Inspector
In 2010 a planning inquiry by inspector Clive Cochrane determined that an area of land on Blaenpant Farm, away from the yard and adjacent to the Carmel telecommunications mast, was being used unlawfully to store a long list of non-agricultural equipment – industrial skips, lorries, lorry engines and parts, container body shells, excavator and bulldozer plant, a fire engine, tarmacadam planings and more. Mr Cochrane said the land must be returned to agriculture. Later Mr Cochrane, after retirement, told the BBC that he could confirm everything that Trisha and Eddie had said about operations at Blaenpant lacking planning permission.
Commenting on the main farmyard of Blaenpant, near Pantycastell Fach, Mr Cochrane said in his inquiry report:
“During the inquiry, copies of two VOSA (Vehicle and Operator Services Agency, since replaced by the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency) licences were produced to show that Blaenpant Farm is an operational base for six lorries and five trailers owned by two different haulage companies. I understand that the appellant also operates haulage and scrap metal businesses at other licensed vehicle operating centres in the Swansea area.
“The licensed operations and the use of the yard and buildings as a haulage depot, storage of related items and HGV maintenance area, combined with the keeping of horses, is not an agricultural use of the existing buildings and open yard. This appears to be in contravention of the conditional planning permissions for the buildings and may be unlawful without further planning permission for an apparent change of use.
“It demonstrates to me that there is very little genuine farming activity at Blaenpant and that other, possibly unauthorised, commercial activities are occupying the land and the buildings reserved by planning conditions for agricultural use.”
“Maladministration” – Public Services Ombudsman
This contradiction of the ‘Blaenpant is a farm’ position, which Carmarthenshire’s planning department maintained in public, was reinforced in 2012 when a verdict of maladministration from the then-Public Services Ombudsman for Wales, Peter Tyndall, had to be accepted by the county council, but to Eddie and Trisha it seemed that acceptance was grudging, and they did not notice any change in the council’s attitude to them.
The 188-page anonymised report from the Ombudsman contains, as Appendix 3, comments from the former Planning Enforcement Manager for Carmarthenshire County Council. The officer in the role in the early 2000s was Brian Canning. ITV’s Wales This Week, in June 2005, got hold of an internal email from Brian Canning, who had written: “Someone is going to get injured or worse if this carries on…. I am not sure if at present they are operating from the site wholly to the letter of the law…”
The Planning Enforcement Manager told the Ombudsman, in his reply to the draft report, that
“I consider the contents of your report in relation to my involvement in this very long-running and difficult case to be biased and lacking in any evidential basis. You insult my professionalism [and that of the Head of Planning] in stating that our ‘dislike’ of this woman (Trisha Breckman) would influence the manner with which we dealt with her many and varied complaints over the years.”
His reply maintained that “we acted with integrity in not being intimidated by this woman, who would seek to move heaven and earth to get her way”.
He went on to challenge the validity of the Ombudsman’s findings, and said “It is my fervent hope that Carmarthenshire County Council seeks counsel’s advice in order to vigorously challenge your recommendations in this matter”, concluding “I did not want to get involved in this matter from the outset. I have absolutely no interest in your final conclusions so would be grateful if you would refrain from contacting me again.”
The Planning Enforcement Manager had told the Ombudsman’s enquiry that he could not recall earlier complaints made by the previous occupiers of Pantycastell Fach, he could not recall seeing a log of HGV-related activity completed at the end of 2001, he could not recall if he had been aware that former occupiers had said they were threatened by Mr Thomas after complaining about the extent of haulage activities at Blaenpant. He did not recall if Blaenpant was licensed as an operating base for one HGV, but he did recall that the operating centre for the lorries was elsewhere. He never saw anything to suggest that a change of use from farming to industry had occurred. He did not recall being shown photographs of lorries, he could not recall if he was offered video footage of HGV activity during a meeting with Eddie Roberts and his surveyor. He could not recall a planning report of September 2006 which referred to the primary uses of the site as being equine and a lorry base, and he believed that statement to be incorrect, based on a snapshot assessment of the planning officer and going beyond what the officer was in a position to say.
Andrew Thomas had said under oath during the 2010 planning inquiry that for ten years he had been using the farm as a base for five or six lorries, but the Planning Enforcement Manager did not think that any weight should be attached to this statement. In his view, the late Karen Bowen Thomas, who died at the end of 2008, would have had a clearer idea of what had been going on.
In fact, Karen had already admitted in court, in 2006, that she ran a haulage business at Blaenpant without planning permission.
Solicitor’s note reveals that the late Karen Bowen had admitted, in a court case in which she accused Trisha Breckman of assault, that she ran a haulage business at Blaenpant without permission.
In what seems a revealing statement, the Planning Enforcement Manager told the Ombudsman that he was extremely principled and would never desist from taking action on the basis of some other ulterior motive, for example, because an officer was being intimidated.
He also claimed, falsely, that Trisha had been convicted of assaulting Karen Bowen Thomas.
In his view, Trisha was a “complete nutcase”, and the Ombudsman’s investigation was “a worthless process”.
The Head of Planning Services was the immediate superior of the Planning Enforcement Manager, and he did not consider that the council had failed to do something it should have done. He did, though, suggest to the Ombudsman that planning enforcement was not the best process for mediation, and therefore it could be helpful to have a more formal mediation service.
But there was no mediation.
In 2015, on Friday October 9th, I contacted the county council’s press office with these three questions:
- Will Carmarthenshire County Council issue a complete apology to acquit Mrs Breckman from blame for the breakdown in relations with Mrs and Mrs Thomas which resulted in Mrs Breckman’s arrests? (The Ombudsman required the county council to issue an apology, but in Mrs Breckman’s view it was very restricted and failed to absolve her from all blame.)
- Will all councillors be given access to the Ombudsman’s full report? (The Ombudsman required this to happen, but I have been informed that only an edited version was offered, and then only to members of the planning committee.)
- Has the county council amended the procedures around planning enforcement, so that when there is a profound disagreement between a complainant and an enforcement officer, an independent arbitrator is brought in at an early stage? (This was a suggestion made by Mr Eifion Bowen, former Head of Planning Services, and reported by the Ombudsman.)
A reply came at 1pm on Monday October 12th 2015, in the form of a statement by Mark James, who was the county council’s Chief Executive between March 2002 and June 2019, when he retired. The statement did not, in my view, respond to any of the questions I had asked. Mr James said:
“The most recent outcome of an investigation (August 2015) by the Ombudsman on a complaint by Mrs Breckman concluded: ‘I believe that the Council has taken the appropriate steps in investigating the breaches of planning control reported and identified and issuing proceedings to either restore the land to its former condition or, in the case of the unauthorised track, consider its planning merits through the submission of an application. Again, I cannot identify any evidence of maladministration in the way in which the Council has acted.”
I had not asked about an unauthorised track. On the matters of events leading to Mrs Breckman’s arrests (for which the police have now apologised); of the 2012 Ombudsman’s report being withheld from the full council; and of any plans to bring in independent arbitration — silence.
Carmarthenshire’s planning department, then headed by now-retired Eifion Bowen, refused to take seriously Trisha and Eddie’s concerns about unlicensed haulage operations, illegal quarrying, and a long series of ‘agricultural’ planning applications for industrial uses. At least, they made no admissions of concern in public. The council were also fully informed of the Thomases’ unlawful industrial activities by John Lawday, a former owner of Pantycastell Fach who moved out in 2002 after 26 years, and whose complaints about noisy unauthorised operations in 2001 and 2002 were on file in the planning department.
Council has power but not duty to investigate breaches of planning law – so no compensation
Trisha and Eddie applied to the county council for compensation, but not a penny has been offered.
“We are sorry to inform you that liability is denied,” said the letter to them from Weightmans, specialist lawyers engaged by the county council, in 2016 – 13 years down the line.
Denial of liability, in a letter received by Trisha Breckman on Wednesday October 26 2016, was because “the law of England and Wales does not allow an individual to recover compensation from a public body where the statutory duty or power involved did not itself confer a private law cause of action for a failure to exercise it”.
In Weightman’s stated view, the county council has the power to act to stop breaches of planning regulations, but does not have a legal duty to do so, and as there is no legal duty to act, no compensation is payable.
Weightmans also said that “the law states that damages in negligence for economic loss are not recoverable when unaccompanied by physical property damage or personal injury”, and also “we believe that your claims are statute barred. The law says that any claims for loss (other than personal injuries) must be brought within six years of the actions causing any loss. The actions which you complain about took place more than six years ago.”
The letter warns against any further action, with the words “Should you commence proceedings, we will ask the court to strike them out immediately.”
So the only avenue which Mrs Breckman and Mr Roberts thought was open to them, to seek compensation for being unable to launch and run their proposed cattery business because of harassment and intimidation from the people next door, now has locked gates across it – just like the lane to their cottage when Mr and Mrs Thomas put gates across that.
One implication of this ‘power not duty’ is lack of fairness. It’s easy to imagine a situation in which a planning authority forces a stop to unpermitted quarrying, for example, next door to a Mr X, but allows similar activity next door to Mrs Y.
Gap in legal obligations
The ‘power’ but not the obligation to stop unlawful activities is a ‘get-out-of-jail’ card for public bodies which want to avoid paying any compensation, but it also means that the victims of the unlawful activities can suffer severe financial loss with no opportunity of any recompense.
In this case, Trisha Breckman and Eddie Roberts spent more than £20,000 on legal fees and their health deteriorated. Trisha and Eddie are now threatened with eviction because they do not have the money to repay the mortgage they took out in 2003 to build the cattery that they did not construct because Andrew Thomas made it so difficult for them, and therefore for future clients, to enter and exit the smallholding. It does not matter that the active harassment stopped a decade ago, the damage was done. The county council and its Chief Executive, the recently retired Mark James CBE, labelled Trisha a persistent complainant and prevented her from contacting councillors, thus closing another door to redress. Both Trisha and Eddie are well over state pension age and can no longer earn as much as was possible in the past.
On Christmas Eve 2018, what might have been a Christmas card was in fact a letter from a firm called Mortgage Agency Services, asking for more than £80,000 before the end of January, to clear the mortgage. Trisha and Eddie did not have that money.
Blaenpant next door came up for sale in September 2019, marketed as an equestrian unit.
Advert for Blaenpant, September 2019. The large limestone quarry in the background, from which stone was removed without authorisation, according to Trisha Breckman’s evidence, is in a Special Area of Conservation of European significance which is supposed to be fully protected.
The harassment stopped, and the track to Pantycastell Fach is back to its former width, but that cannot wipe out the years of aggravation. Surely the fact that the Ombudsman found Carmarthenshire County Council guilty of maladministration means that the council has a moral, even if not a legal, obligation to compensate Trisha and Eddie, who were victimised for whistleblowing.
A voluntary settlement by Carmarthenshire County Council would polish the council’s reputation as well as compensating Trisha and Eddie for years of suffering from the council’s indifference to the evidence with which they were provided.
The two pensioners can never have the lost years back.
I would have liked to speak to county council personnel about possible resolutions to the difficult situation in which Trisha and Eddie find themselves, but was informed by the Press Office earlier in 2019 that no member of staff will communicate with me professionally unless and until Econews West Wales belongs to an official media regulation scheme.