June 2005............Carmarthen Council had ample evidence on which to take enforcement action against an unauthorised haulage business operating without planning consents. They also had an abundance of evidence of aggressive and threatening conduct from the hauliers towards others to warrant serious concern for our welfare.
From the first phone call I made to the Enforcement Manager following the revelations from the two Council officers who first visited me in early 2004 that there had been a history of problems between these two properties, it was the responsibility of this Council to ensure I was not going to be intimidated and abused simply for making my conerns known to them.
From 2001 Carmarthen Council had been in receipt of photos and logs from a previous owner of our property together with several letters detailing the nature of the unauthorised uses at Blaenpant, which included maintenance of HGVs - quarrying - removal of rock in lorry loads from the unit - power hosing etc. CCC had also been advised of intimidation and aggressive behaviour and threats being made by the hauliers that any further complaints from owners of our property would result in the right of way being changed to 'make life difficult'.
CCC had received many letters from other local people in 2001/2/3 advising them that this haulage business was being operated from this property, seven days a week, including some from the Community Council. Another local resident had sent the Council a written log together with letters advising them of the unauthorised quarrying and that lorries carrying the rock were travelling down the road past his house. Mark James, the newly appointed Chief Executive had also been requested to look into matters sometime in 2002.
My local councillor was impotent. When asking questions of Eifion Bowen he was told the neighbours were agricultural, there was no evidence of unauthorised quarrying and no evidence of industrial activities. He and everyone locally knew there was. On one hand officers Brian Canning and Eifion Bowen were saying they didn't monitor outside office hours and yet at the meeting Eddie had with Brian Canning in May 2005 he suggested we keep a log of lorry movements and said quote "make a note of when vehicles are there because you will find a pattern, these things are never random, we will then visit at the appropriate time whether 6.o clock in the morning or 2 o clock in the morning" unquote. I had suggested to Mr. Canning in 2004 that if he drove down the B4297 any evening or any weekend he would be able to evidence for himself the activities taking place. He told me at the time, this wasn't possible as they do not work outside office hours, do not have the resources etc. None of the excuses were credible and merely added to the belief that the hauliers were being given favours by Carmarthen Council's planning department to run this business without proper consents.
|Unauthorised quarrying again - unbearable noise.|
There was no doubt left officers were wilfully allowing this industrial business to develop without planning and change of use, and were allowing industrial sheds to be built using agricultural rights where there was zero agriculture taking place.
|Oppressive Industrial shed built on raised ground.|
Officers of Carmarthen Council were also ignoring the intimidation and threatening behaviour we were now facing, with Brian Canning and Eifion Bowen accusing us of making unfounded complaints and causing a 'neighbour dispute'.
|Outside bedroom window - what's coming next?|
Almost each and every day Eddie and I now faced the prospect of being waylaid by the neighbours within the confines of our right of way, 'your metal enclosure' as the neighbours liked to call it. We were also taunted whenever we went out and again on coming home. Many a day I couldn't face going out as coming home was such an ordeal.
We were followed out of our home and tailgated as part of the threatening behaviour we were now having to endure. Friends visiting would also be confronted as they stopped to open the gate at the top of the driveway, and Karen Thomas would sometimes take their photograph.
We were on our own and needed help and so I had made contact with a retired senior police officer who had great sympathy for the ordeal we were now facing. He offered us good sound advice when we were feeling at our lowest knowing we were not getting the support we should have had from our local police. He advised us that the police could intervene using the Harassment Act to protect us from the escalating anti social behaviour. Having asked for an officer to call us, WPC McWilliams from our local police station rang and advised us the Harassment Act could not be used in our case. This was odd because according to a local person who had experienced a far lesser problem with a neighbour WPC McWilliams had used the Act in her case. After speaking to an Inspector the local police officers were told that the Act could and should be used. We were advised to log each incident with the police.
With excuses for our neighbours coming thick and fast from both the Council and the local police every time we sought their help, it was patently obvious we were not going to have any support or protection from them. The harassment was being ignored by the police and the ongoing industrial operations were continuing to impact upon our quality of life and ignored by the Council. I questioned our rights, did we have any? I believed we had a right to peaceful enjoyment of our home. It seemed not - certainly not as far as our neighbours and Carmarthen Council were concerned.
Living as isolated as we were it was a very frightening prospect that the threatening nature of our neighbours was being ignored. We decided to go ahead with the documentary as to publicly shed light on our impossible plight would give us a form of safeguard.
16th. June 2005 Wales This Week documentary
Following this documentary which substantiated our complaints as being genuine and justified, I fully expected the Council to accept the horrendous position they had placed us in and offer us the support we deserved. It was not to be - Eifion Bowen made our situation even worse, if that was possible, by accusing me of doctoring film footage, and when the Minister from the Welsh Assembly wrote to him having seen the programme, he accused ITV of conspiring to doctor the footage also. Yet again incredible accusations to cover up the truth.
|"You created this war, you've got war"!|
Andrew and Karen Thomas declared war on us. Carmarthen Council and the local police were fully aware that this conduct had been realised upon two former owners already and we were the third. The difference now is that due to the history of threats being reined down on several people and the right of way being a further weapon used against us, we were now trapped, and had zero prospect of being able to sell and move away from this nightmare.
Less than two weeks after the programme had been aired, our local farmer came to cut our fields as he had done the previous year. As he entered through the newly erected gate, Karen Thomas stopped him to advise him in her way, not to cut our fields. He told us what she had said and we made it easy for him to cancel our agreement if he chose to. He did cut our fields but a few days later when visiting us, having left his landrover parked across the road from us, upon returning to his vehicle found three tyres had been cut. We paid for these as we felt responsible. Of course it was reported to the local police but as always and expected now, we were told as there were no witnesses no action could be taken. This would be correct, except the neighbours had many CCTV cameras dotted around their property which the police could have insisted upon viewing if they were of a mind to, which would would have shown the perpetrator. They chose not to.
Following this incident and previous incidents which were being ignored, I felt our decision to agree to the television documentary was a positive one. We might have been in danger and the programme would in some way be a form of protection for us. It wasn't coming from the authorities. If two VOSA officers were put in fear by the neighbours it would be obvious we would be feeling that way too.