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GaryCantley
Oct-07-2021 @ 11:06 AM                           Permalink
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A copy of a document which has been circulated to all BA Members has come into my possession anonymously and I think it is in the public interest to publish this, see below.

Moorings at Haddiscoe New Cut
Dear everyone
I’m sure you will all have read the reports in the EDP covering the above - though it’s a shame that most of you have still not seen the evidential review itself, which was sent to the Chairman over 7 weeks ago.
This is obviously a disappointing and damaging report, which could easily have been avoided if the Authority had followed due process and engaged members in the proper manner - and demonstrates the critical importance of the board being allowed to perform their statutory duty of holding officers to account.
Here is a summary of the relevant facts, all of which have been fully substantiated. More details can be found in the ‘documents’ section of the planning portal (application ref BA/2020/0045/COND).
1. In 2002, the Broads Authority tried to lease existing moorings at Haddiscoe New Cut to provide 24 hour visitor moorings, but were unable to agree terms with the landowner, who preferred to continue operating them as private moorings.
2. Between 2004 & 2007, works carried out by the Environment Agency to form a new set-back flood bank caused damage to the piling and adjacent road which eventually (by 2015) rendered the moorings unsafe to use.
3. In 2019, the Environment Agency agreed to replace the piling.
In approving the Environment Agency’s planning application under
1. delegated authority, officers unexpectedly added a last-minute condition preventing use of the piling for mooring boats. This condition was added without consulting the navigation committee (making the consultation unlawful under the Broads Act 1988 s9), the landowner or any councillor,  and was made on the wholly false premises a) that the moorings were unauthorised and b) that there had been “regular and vigorous complaints” about moored boats in that location.
2. The imposition of this condition rendered the land – which was previously coveted by the Authority for moorings - essentially worthless.
3. The landowner therefore applied for the planning condition to be removed on the basis that it was unnecessary and unreasonable.
4. Since it would not be reasonable to expect officers to “mark their own homework”, I called in the application to be considered by planning committee (in my capacity as both ward member and a member of the Authority), citing a clear conflict with planning policy as a material planning consideration.
5. 4 other members of the planning committee, and the County Councillor for the Division, also called in the application, citing various material planning considerations including loss of moorings contrary to policy and lack of evidence for imposing the condition in the first place.
6. All 6 call-in requests were refused by officers, without justification, contrary to the approved Scheme of Delegation and contrary to the Local Government Act 1972 s101 which explicitly states that a scheme of delegation shall not prevent a decision-making committee from exercising its functions.
7. Not only was this action unlawful, but it was contrary to the most basic principles of proper governance and accountability.
8. When I requested details of the “regular and vigorous complaints” which had been used to justify the condition just 8 months previously, officers claimed that the evidence had been disposed of.
9. An email from the Authority’s Navigation Officer was then provided, which was said to provide evidence of the complaints - but most of the content was redacted as it was said to be irrelevant.
10. The redacted content, when finally revealed, was not only highly relevant, but showed that the Officer had no navigational concerns about vessels moored in that location, and described the moorings as “long-established”.
11. That email proved beyond doubt that the original condition was imposed improperly and without any justification in planning terms.
12. Since it is almost inconceivable that an email could be redacted by mistake, the inevitable conclusion is that the redaction was intended to conceal the facts.
13. 5 members of the Authority corresponded with the Director of Planning and the Monitoring Officer expressing all of the above concerns. These concerns were rebuffed without being properly addressed, and resulted in Julie Brociek-Coulton being removed from the Authority without notice or due process (and contrary to the law) by the leader of Norwich City Council, at the request of the Authority’s executive.
14. The Leader of Norfolk County Council wrote to the Chief Executive to express concern over the handling of the application, but he refused to intervene or investigate, instead expressing full confidence in “the strength of our processes and quality of our staff”. This clear pre-determination rendered any further complaint to the Chief Executive futile.
15. Having exhausted all possible internal avenues of complaint, the members provided the leader of South Norfolk Council with a dossier of evidence to assist him in making a complaint to the police as a possible case of Misconduct in Public Office.
16. It took 14 months for the police to consider the case, and although the conclusion was that there was no evidence of criminal behaviour, the DS was clearly so outraged by the “incompetent and bloody minded” behaviour of officers that she set out those concerns in the strongest terms. The report was approved by a Detective Inspector and a Superintendent before being sent to the claimant and victim, and was not marked confidential or legally privileged.
Clearly as a board we have a duty not only to address these serious concerns, but to consider why we have been prevented from seeing the evidential review and denied the opportunity to discuss it. This feels very much like a continuation of the behaviour described above.
You will be aware that both Fran Whymark and myself made formal requests for the matter to be considered as an item of urgent business at the Broads Authority meeting last week, and yet the Chairman told the meeting that he had received no such requests.
The conclusion of the evidential review was that there were “breaches of protocol” and concerns “over the transparent and lawful management of the Broads Authority” which should be reviewed by DEFRA. The sensible and proper response would surely have been for the Authority to refer itself to DEFRA for such an investigation.
Instead, the Authority – without reference to the Board – decided to advise DEFRA of “this latest attempt by certain South Norfolk Council councillors to publicly impugn the integrity of the Broads Authority and its Officers” whilst dismissing the review as “the work of a junior officer” and threatening a formal complaint against the police.
We are also told of a review by an “independent planner” whose identity and terms of reference are a mystery, and who has had no contact with any of those involved in making the complaint. The Planning Advisory Service have confirmed that they have no involvement in this process and it is hard to see how such a “review” could be seen as either independent or credible; the continued unwillingness to engage members over the substance of the complaint gives further credence to the Police Officer’s conclusions.
Seen in the context of the Chairman’s offensive and personal attacks aimed at discrediting myself and Cllr Whymark, it is apparent that the Authority’s executive seem determined to focus on deflecting criticism and ‘shooting the messenger’ rather than addressing the fundamental concerns raised.
I therefore ask you all to consider carefully what actions the board should take to restore public confidence in our ability to govern, scrutinise and protect the public interest.
Kind regards

Gary.

At the going down of the sun
and in the morning,
we will remember them.

annville
Oct-07-2021 @ 11:32 AM                           Permalink
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Thanks for that Gary What outrageous behaviour (you wont let me so i will make sure you cant have it) surly the Bromley's can take the BA to court over this blatant action to stop them using land and moorings that belong to them, Perhaps Paladin can guide us on this(lost for words) situation. John

savoy
Oct-07-2021 @ 12:52 PM                           Permalink
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As the BA are members on this site, any comment from them would be appreciated.

Paladine
Oct-07-2021 @ 1:54 PM                           Permalink
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That is a very potent communication. Thank you for sharing it with us.

I would not presume to offer any advice, as suggested by annville, but my strong personal opinion is that this case, and the How Hill case which will be considered by the planning committee tomorrow (8 Oct), should be the final nails in the coffin of the Broads No-Authority being the planning authority for the area. The sheer (IMO) vindictiveness, self-service and incompetence demonstrated by senior officers can only have been allowed by complicity at the highest level.

There have been many calls for the planning function to be returned to the elected members of the relevant full local authorities (not one for which legislation has had to be amended so that they can, for some purposes, be regarded as a local authority) and it is high time those calls were heeded.

It has been my experience that local authority members in general have the overall interests of the community at heart when they make their decisions, and do not feel the need to show any servile deference to their chief executive, for fear of removal. They are answerable only to their electorate.

When will Defra take its head out of the sand? Perhaps a combined effort by our local authorities and MPs is now needed, to spur them into action.


Been hit by another boat? Report the incident to the Marine Accident Investigation Branch’s dedicated accident reporting line on 023 8023 2527 which is monitored 24 hours a day.  Help to make the Broads safer.

JP
Oct-07-2021 @ 3:29 PM                           Permalink
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Good afternoon Paladine,

I hope you are well.

In the interest of balance I think you should see a copy of the independent report.

I have tried to upload it a couple of times without success. I seem to remember having that problem with this site before. The report will be on the Authority's website soon.

Here is a copy of a statement from the Authority on the issue.

“The Authority is disappointed that this complaint was not raised with it directly using the standard local government process. This would have allowed the Authority the opportunity to respond to it. Instead Cllr Fuller chose to report his accusations to Norfolk Police alleging ‘misconduct in public office’.

“The Police review found no evidence to support the allegations and concluded no further action should be taken by them. The Police did not approach the Authority during the course of the investigation and subsequently the evidential review report only contained material supplied by those associated with the complaint. This included some outrageous and inflammatory comments which the Police have since concluded were not within their authority to make and they have since apologised to the Broads Authority.

They also contacted the complainants, informing them that the report should not have been disclosed to them and instructed that copies should be destroyed or deleted. Despite this the report has since been forwarded to the media.

“Given the nature of the allegation, the Authority commissioned an independent planning consultant, recommended by the Local Government Association's Planning Advisory Service, to review the handling of the planning applications. We are pleased and unsurprised that the independent report concluded that the Authority’s staff handled these two minor applications professionally and appropriately.
There was no basis for a complaint by Cllr Fuller and even if he had concerns they should have been raised through the normal complaints procedure.

“We shall be seeking personal letters of apology from the Chief Constable to our members of staff involved and an assurance that action has been taken to ensure that junior police officers dealing with complaints from influential local politicians are supported adequately so that in future, they do not make such serious mistakes again.

“The Authority is also taking legal advice on how it can protect its staff from harassment and bullying of this nature.”

I am happy to answer any questions on this matter so that you can see that the Authority’s members of staff have acted ‘professionally and appropriately” in the handling of these two minor planning applications and that there was no basis for Cllr Fuller’s complaint to the Police.


With regards
John


L'sBelles
Oct-07-2021 @ 3:38 PM                           Permalink
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Well if there was ever one post that confirms the Broads Authority are not fit for purpose that is it!

There may not be criminal charges to answer but there is certainly a recurrent abuse of the powers provided by public office without the accountability that is generally associated with that office.

If DEFRA wishes to retain a single local authority to cover the Broads area then it should be subject to the terms of other local authorities with elected members and transparency of operation making them accountable to the local electorate.

savoy
Oct-07-2021 @ 4:00 PM                           Permalink
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Thank you JP for replying. Your statement only reiterates your response to the article in the EDP of 29 September which was published at that time. It would also be appreciated if you could bring us up to date and comment on the disclosures which have appeared in this latest discussion.

Greybeard
Oct-07-2021 @ 6:09 PM                           Permalink
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Make of it all what you will,,but most folks
"don't need to go to the north pole to know it's cold there"

my appearance is down to me, my attitude is down to you.

Paladine
Oct-07-2021 @ 8:10 PM                           Permalink
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Thank you for your post, JP, and for giving me the opportunity to make a response to the Authority’s statement.

”In the interest of balance I think you should see a copy of the independent report.”

In the interest of balance, I would like to see, not only the ‘independent’ report by the planning professional who was employed by the Authority (hardly independent, though, as he who pays the piper, calls the tune), but also the independent report submitted by the police sergeant. The police report, we’re told, was approved by senior officers, so for you to place the responsibility for it solely on to the sergeant’s shoulders is totally unfair.

”I have tried to upload it a couple of times without success. I seem to remember having that problem with this site before. The report will be on the Authority's website soon.”

We all know there are difficulties in loading certain media onto this site, but, in the past, you have emailed it to me and I have uploaded it. You could have done that this time.

Here is a copy of a statement from the Authority on the issue.

“The Authority is disappointed that this complaint was not raised with it directly using the standard local government process. This would have allowed the Authority the opportunity to respond to it. Instead Cllr Fuller chose to report his accusations to Norfolk Police alleging ‘misconduct in public office’.


The email mentioned above says: “The Leader of Norfolk County Council wrote to the Chief Executive to express concern over the handling of the application, but he refused to intervene or investigate, instead expressing full confidence in “the strength of our processes and quality of our staff”.”

If that is true, what purpose would be served by making any further representations? You had, evidently, made up your mind that there was nothing to investigate. I’m reminded of the time I was accused of a criminal offence (the accusation later withdrawn) by a ranger. My complaint to you about the incident still hasn’t been resolved, after more than two years. ‘Not one of your priorities’, you said. Nor did you apologise for the unfounded impugnation of my good character.  

“The Police review found no evidence to support the allegations...”

Not quite. The quote in the Press was: “It is my opinion having reviewed all available material that this matter does not meet the seriousness test in order to pass the criminal threshold.

Whilst the motivations behind the decisions made by the official planning officers of the Broads Authority are undetermined, it is apparent that their behaviour appears to be obstructive, unreasonable and at times bizarre however it is not so serious as to be criminal."

That means that the evidence examined was insufficient to support a criminal charge, not that there was no evidence at all.

"The Police did not approach the Authority during the course of the investigation and subsequently the evidential review report only contained material supplied by those associated with the complaint.".

The police officer, it seems, made assumptions about the motives/mind set of Authority employees which cannot be confirmed without interviewing those employees. So it was an incomplete investigation, in my opinion. Perhaps a full, truly independent review should be undertaken. Would the Authority support that approach?

”This included some outrageous and inflammatory comments which the Police have since concluded were not within their authority to make and they have since apologised to the Broads Authority.”

The police have said the comments were not within the remit of the investigation, not that the opinion expressed was wrong, based on the material examined, The comments were the genuine opinions of the investigating officer, after having spent 14 months investigating the Authority’s behaviour. She was perfectly entitled to draw those conclusions. The mistake was publishing the report containing them to the complainant, for which an apology has been issued. Many would find the remarks to be neither outrageous nor inflammatory.

”They also contacted the complainants, informing them that the report should not have been disclosed to them and instructed that copies should be destroyed or deleted. Despite this the report has since been forwarded to the media.”

Has it been confirmed by the police, media or complainant that the instruction to destroy/delete the report was given before it was sent to the media? Regardless, I believe it is in the public interest that the report be published in full. Then we can make up our own minds as to the strength of the evidence. You wouldn’t object to that, would you, as you seem keen on the interests of balance?

“Given the nature of the allegation, the Authority commissioned an independent planning consultant, recommended by the Local Government Association's Planning Advisory Service, to review the handling of the planning applications. We are pleased and unsurprised that the independent report concluded that the Authority’s staff handled these two minor applications professionally and appropriately.
There was no basis for a complaint by Cllr Fuller and even if he had concerns they should have been raised through the normal complaints procedure.”


I, too, am unsurprised that the consultant engaged by the Authority came up with that result, but I wouldn’t call the review ‘independent’ (see earlier comment about pipers and tunes).

“We shall be seeking personal letters of apology from the Chief Constable to our members of staff involved and an assurance that action has been taken to ensure that junior police officers dealing with complaints from influential local politicians are supported adequately so that in future, they do not make such serious mistakes again.

The Authority is also taking legal advice on how it can protect its staff from harassment and bullying of this nature.”


I’m impressed with your choice of language. When referring to the police report, we have ”outrageous and inflammatory comments”, then ”harassment and bullying”. Very emotive, but ignoring the genuine concerns being expressed, while trying to downplay the relevance of ”two minor applications”. I find that very patronising and an insult to the intelligence.

Perhaps I should point out that harassment is a criminal offence under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 – is that what you’re alleging? Harassment involves “pursuing a course of conduct” i.e. more than one incident. One justifiable complaint is hardly a course of conduct.

Finally, perhaps you would like to respond to the lengthy email that has been circulated to members of the Authority and posted on here. There are some very serious allegations made therein.



Been hit by another boat? Report the incident to the Marine Accident Investigation Branch’s dedicated accident reporting line on 023 8023 2527 which is monitored 24 hours a day.  Help to make the Broads safer.

JollyRodger
Oct-07-2021 @ 9:07 PM                           Permalink
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John, perhaps you might care t respond to this letter, a copy of which has been circulated on other forums:

"A copy of a document which has been circulated to all BA Members has come into my possession anonymously and I think it is in the public interest to publish this, see below.

Moorings at Haddiscoe New Cut

Dear everyone

I’m sure you will all have read the reports in the EDP covering the above - though it’s a shame that most of you have still not seen the evidential review itself, which was sent to the Chairman over 7 weeks ago.
This is obviously a disappointing and damaging report, which could easily have been avoided if the Authority had followed due process and engaged members in the proper manner - and demonstrates the critical importance of the board being allowed to perform their statutory duty of holding officers to account.
Here is a summary of the relevant facts, all of which have been fully substantiated. More details can be found in the ‘documents’ section of the planning portal (application ref BA/2020/0045/COND).
1. In 2002, the Broads Authority tried to lease existing moorings at Haddiscoe New Cut to provide 24 hour visitor moorings, but were unable to agree terms with the landowner, who preferred to continue operating them as private moorings.
2. Between 2004 & 2007, works carried out by the Environment Agency to form a new set-back flood bank caused damage to the piling and adjacent road which eventually (by 2015) rendered the moorings unsafe to use.
3. In 2019, the Environment Agency agreed to replace the piling.
In approving the Environment Agency’s planning application under
1. delegated authority, officers unexpectedly added a last-minute condition preventing use of the piling for mooring boats. This condition was added without consulting the navigation committee (making the consultation unlawful under the Broads Act 1988 s9), the landowner or any councillor,  and was made on the wholly false premises a) that the moorings were unauthorised and b) that there had been “regular and vigorous complaints” about moored boats in that location.
2. The imposition of this condition rendered the land – which was previously coveted by the Authority for moorings - essentially worthless.
3. The landowner therefore applied for the planning condition to be removed on the basis that it was unnecessary and unreasonable.
4. Since it would not be reasonable to expect officers to “mark their own homework”, I called in the application to be considered by planning committee (in my capacity as both ward member and a member of the Authority), citing a clear conflict with planning policy as a material planning consideration.
5. 4 other members of the planning committee, and the County Councillor for the Division, also called in the application, citing various material planning considerations including loss of moorings contrary to policy and lack of evidence for imposing the condition in the first place.
6. All 6 call-in requests were refused by officers, without justification, contrary to the approved Scheme of Delegation and contrary to the Local Government Act 1972 s101 which explicitly states that a scheme of delegation shall not prevent a decision-making committee from exercising its functions.
7. Not only was this action unlawful, but it was contrary to the most basic principles of proper governance and accountability.
8. When I requested details of the “regular and vigorous complaints” which had been used to justify the condition just 8 months previously, officers claimed that the evidence had been disposed of.
9. An email from the Authority’s Navigation Officer was then provided, which was said to provide evidence of the complaints - but most of the content was redacted as it was said to be irrelevant.
10. The redacted content, when finally revealed, was not only highly relevant, but showed that the Officer had no navigational concerns about vessels moored in that location, and described the moorings as “long-established”.
11. That email proved beyond doubt that the original condition was imposed improperly and without any justification in planning terms.
12. Since it is almost inconceivable that an email could be redacted by mistake, the inevitable conclusion is that the redaction was intended to conceal the facts.
13. 5 members of the Authority corresponded with the Director of Planning and the Monitoring Officer expressing all of the above concerns. These concerns were rebuffed without being properly addressed, and resulted in Julie Brociek-Coulton being removed from the Authority without notice or due process (and contrary to the law) by the leader of Norwich City Council, at the request of the Authority’s executive.
14. The Leader of Norfolk County Council wrote to the Chief Executive to express concern over the handling of the application, but he refused to intervene or investigate, instead expressing full confidence in “the strength of our processes and quality of our staff”. This clear pre-determination rendered any further complaint to the Chief Executive futile.
15. Having exhausted all possible internal avenues of complaint, the members provided the leader of South Norfolk Council with a dossier of evidence to assist him in making a complaint to the police as a possible case of Misconduct in Public Office.
16. It took 14 months for the police to consider the case, and although the conclusion was that there was no evidence of criminal behaviour, the DS was clearly so outraged by the “incompetent and bloody minded” behaviour of officers that she set out those concerns in the strongest terms. The report was approved by a Detective Inspector and a Superintendent before being sent to the claimant and victim, and was not marked confidential or legally privileged.
Clearly as a board we have a duty not only to address these serious concerns, but to consider why we have been prevented from seeing the evidential review and denied the opportunity to discuss it. This feels very much like a continuation of the behaviour described above.
You will be aware that both Fran Whymark and myself made formal requests for the matter to be considered as an item of urgent business at the Broads Authority meeting last week, and yet the Chairman told the meeting that he had received no such requests.
The conclusion of the evidential review was that there were “breaches of protocol” and concerns “over the transparent and lawful management of the Broads Authority” which should be reviewed by DEFRA. The sensible and proper response would surely have been for the Authority to refer itself to DEFRA for such an investigation.
Instead, the Authority – without reference to the Board – decided to advise DEFRA of “this latest attempt by certain South Norfolk Council councillors to publicly impugn the integrity of the Broads Authority and its Officers” whilst dismissing the review as “the work of a junior officer” and threatening a formal complaint against the police.
We are also told of a review by an “independent planner” whose identity and terms of reference are a mystery, and who has had no contact with any of those involved in making the complaint. The Planning Advisory Service have confirmed that they have no involvement in this process and it is hard to see how such a “review” could be seen as either independent or credible; the continued unwillingness to engage members over the substance of the complaint gives further credence to the Police Officer’s conclusions.
Seen in the context of the Chairman’s offensive and personal attacks aimed at discrediting myself and Cllr Whymark, it is apparent that the Authority’s executive seem determined to focus on deflecting criticism and ‘shooting the messenger’ rather than addressing the fundamental concerns raised.
I therefore ask you all to consider carefully what actions the board should take to restore public confidence in our ability to govern, scrutinise and protect the public interest.

Kind regards"

John, your response will be apprecuated.

Jolly Roger

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