|April - a further addition|
I had purposely avoided any confrontation with the neighbours throughout this time as history had shown they were capable of extreme unpleasantness towards anyone who criticised their unauthorised industrial businesses. My M.P.s letter to the council had kick started a bullying campaign against us and daily life was now a constant worry. The alterations to our once pretty right of way was proving difficult. The neighbours insisted the gate they had erected at the top end was to be kept shut at all times. It was totally unnecessary as it was a stretch of lane off the main road and only ran down to us. They hadn't left the side gates open for their many horses to wander from field to paddock as had been threatened, so why insist on this gate being closed all the time. Because the lane was so steep and now so narrow, it was problematic for us being older people and not so agile, as the car door could not be opened fully, and the metal crash barriers that protruded made it even worse. It was a struggle to get out of the car and being on a steep slope made it more difficult. Each day, having to stop on a very steep incline, wriggle out of the car to open a gate which had been deliberately erected to cause difficulties, added to the awareness of the appalling situation we had found ourselves embroiled in. Due to the limited space available it was difficult to avoid brushing up against the dirty crash barriers.
We had contacted a solicitor through Country Landowners Association (whom we were now members of) for advice on what our options were with regard to the devastating alterations to our once pretty right of way. This was going to cost us money - money that was meant for the cattery.
Two very nice, helpful solicitors came and were appalled. Whilst they were taking pictures and measuring the width of our right of way, Karen Thomas made her presence felt with sarcastic comments and constant filming. Another bad day.
Our newly appointed solicitors had advised us this conduct by our neighbours would be seen as vindictive and their behaviour was totally unacceptable. We had no alternative but to take out a civil case against our neighbours to get these obstructions removed.
Our solicitors said that the width of the Right of Way was also illegal and we should contact the Fire Service. The fire officer visited and was extremely supportive and disgusted at the actions of our neighbours. They advised that the width the neighbours had left us with was dangerous, because a fire engine would not be able to access our property in the event of a fire. The Fire Service wrote a letter to the neighbours advising them they should widen our one and only access, and a copy was also sent to the council. No heed was paid to it, not from the council nor the neighbours.
Eddie was working out of Carmarthen and we had now lost a large part of our income. This meant the cattery had to be put on hold, as we had solicitors fees to pay. The neighbours spiteful actions in altering our right of way in this manner had to be challenged through the courts. We were now embroiled in a legal battle which we had never planned for, certainly never wanted nor expected.
I desperately needed the council to accept that our lives were being made a misery from the many industrial activities taking place next door. We had nothing to lose now by attempting to get the council to take some form of responsibility. If they did intervene, we might at least be able to enjoy some peace and quiet, and enjoy our new home in the way we believed was our right. I found it incredulous that so many people had been telling this council about the unauthorised uses at this location but the council had seemingly ignored it all. We were not able to enjoy our home due to the daily noise from HGVs coming and going, maintenance, power hosing and anything else the neighbours chose to do, but they on the other hand appeared to be immune from any form planning legislation. During phone calls to Eifion Bowen and Brian Canning alerting them to our right of way being drastically changed into a metal corridor, and why, they continued to be defensive of our neighbours, showing a reluctance to take any of my concerns on board. I kept asking myself how something so obvious was being denied.
Someone from Carmarthen council wasn't being honest. I was hearing through local gossip that our neighbours had connections and the council were turning a blind eye. It now seemed to me this was possibly the case. Nobody could deny the industrial nature of what was taking place, and had been since 2001 when the hauliers had moved in.
The enquiries I had now made with the council and others regarding the quarrying, had confirmed that rock could only be extracted for use on the farm, it could not be taken away. This should have safeguarded us from this particular offensive activity. It didn't. The quarrying away of rock continued and the rock continued to be taken away in lorry loads. A local person along with previous owners of this property had advised the council of this particular activity long before we came to live here, so it was surprising the council had not taken steps to stop this. It was impossible to carry out our own chores outside having to listen to the noise from a JCB loading rock onto lorries. It was so miserable. Whenever we tried working outside we inevitably had to give up what we were doing and come back inside. The noise was horrendous. This took place almost every weekend, and there was no escape from HGVs either coming and going, some bringing in old tyres ready for burning at night, and others carrying materials that this type of business would be using. One thing for sure didn't take place, and that was farming. Everything was strongly suggesting the council liked our neighbours and were going to allow them free rein to continue expanding this industrial site - at a cost to anyone living in our property.
I wrote and asked that they do something about these businesses. Eifion Bowen and Brian Canning insisted site visits were necessary to ascertain if indeed there was a haulage business operating. I could never understand why they didn't do as I had suggested and simply view the property from the main road - after all it couldn't have been more obvious. A drive down the B4297 on a Saturday or Sunday would have proven what everyone was telling them, and it wouldn't have been too much to ask that an enforcement department do this.
But they insisted they didn't work outside office hours and it had to be a site visit only. A site visit wasn't going to expose maintenance on HGVs - rock being quarried - welding - scrap being cut - power hosing and all of the other activities I was telling them about - was it? As site visits were arranged in advance and only took place during office hours, with most of the lorries having already gone out for the day, it was fait accompli. It seemed to me the council didn't want to see anything untoward.
Following his site visit, Eifion Bowen insisted there was no evidence of a haulage business operating from Blaenpant - after all he alleged, they had an official centre in Tumble. This was the line taken by Eifion Bowen and Brian Canning and they were not going to budge from it no matter what I or anyone else said. I took great exception to the suggestion I was being less than honest knowing exactly who was. Eifion Bowen said there was no evidence of quarrying either! I knew this was dishonest, as the hauliers had been gradually getting rid of the quarry over the past four years by this time.
Brian Canning had suggested I take photographs of the lorries, but I had already taken pictures of the many lorries parked adjacent to our cottage, but had been told these were just parked temporarily over the Christmas period. Another explanation from E. Bowen was that the lorries were 'visiting'. I was also told to keep a log. As they had on file pictures of lorries from the former owners of our property, and a log of movement of lorries from two local people, why would a few more pictures of lorries and another log, convince these two officers of something they clearly they did not want to accept. It was becoming more and more apparent that something was very wrong.
It was always my contention that the onus should not have been upon us to prove anything. I told this to my local councillor, who said this was normal practice for councils to issue logs and ask for evidence. I explained to him that I was very unhappy at being asked to gather evidence. If I was going to have to provide evidence this was clearly going to provoke even more reaction from my unpleasant neighbours. The council had received many complaints for four years by this time and I didn't want it to be my responsibility to have to prove anything. As far as I was concerned, it was their responsibility to monitor and gather evidence and take appropriate action. My councillor understood what I was saying but said this is how councils work. I told him that if these two officers weren't believing what others had been telling them over a period of two and a half years, and they weren't believing me another fourteen months on, why would a few more pictures of lorries and another written log convince them. How was I to take pictures anyway - ask the Thomases if they minded me going onto their property to do this? If this is proper procedure then something needed to change. Surely council's take into account different circumstances and adapt to them.
I believed that in these particular circumstances where there had already been a history of serious aggression and intimidation towards people who had lived here, it was wrong for the council to place the responsibility upon me to prove unauthorised businesses. This was wrong of the council to be putting me under further threat by gathering evidence for them. They knew that our neighbours had already begun a campaign against us and in my opinion were making matters even worse for us. My councillor was sympathetic but could offer no other way around our growing problem. I felt that there should have been measures in place for circumstances such as ours. We lived in an isolated location next to two people who were capable of extreme behaviour.
I told Mr. Canning that as he and Eifion Bowen were not accepting the pictures I had already taken, I would film the lorries leaving in the early morning with my camcorder. The neighbours wouldn't even have to know and it would be just a short piece of film footage of lorry movements as opposed to stills which proved nothing. Surely this would be enough to convince anyone! As I was already awake at 6 a.m. every morning anyway, I filmed cars arriving and lorries leaving over a period of a week or two. This was inarguable evidence - surely? I informed Eifion Bowen I had done this and would he like to see it. I sent a copy to the council. I also began keeping a log of numbers of lorries.
The neighbours would have been aware by now that my local councillor was visiting regularly. The day following another of his visits, I took my rubbish bags to the top of the right of way and was about to deposit them on the verge as I had been doing for the past thirteen months, when the neighbours shouted to me. As they approached, they told me I couldn't leave them there as they owned the verge and they didn't wish for me to leave my bags there any more. I told them that I thought the council owned verges, but they insisted the verge was theirs and I was not to deposit my rubbish bags on their verge. I didn't argue - I brought them back down and for the following two years we took our own rubbish to the local refuse tip.
The neighbours dogs were becoming a real problem now as the barking throughout the night just seemed to be getting worse. Is this being encouraged? Do we report this or do we sleep downstairs. What a nightmare our lives had become and in such a short space of time. If only the council had listened to local people and the former two owners of our property. We wouldn't be living here at all. If only if only.................
A few days after the rubbish bag incident, we returned from shopping and had stopped at the top of the right of way as there was a great deal of noise coming from the quarry area. As always there was noise, but this sounded like quarrying - again. The neighbours saw us looking and took exception to us being inquisitive. As they began to approach us, not wanting any confrontation, we drove down to our gate. Karen Thomas ran down our right of way alongside our car. We drove onto our property and as Eddie was getting out of our car to close our gate, Karen Thomas spread eagled herself across it, preventing him from closing it. AT was following closely behind her, in a rage, and launched into a tirade of abuse - telling us to 'wise up' 'get back over the bridge if we knew what was good for us' - to 'stay out of their business' etc - poking Eddie in the chest. It was horrific and alien to me and very frightening. We had never experienced anything like this before. Eventually Eddie had to pull the gate closed whilst KT attempted to keep it open. Once the gate had been closed and bolted, we drove down towards our cottage but they remained at our gate continuing shouting abuse at us. We reported this incident to the police and it was to become one of many such incidents in the years that followed.
WPC McWilliams and another officer visited - eventually - and advised us that as there were no witnesses there was nothing they could do for us. Living as isolated as we were, there was never likely to be any witness. This was very disturbing as it was clear we were literally on our own. As the council were aware of the intimidation towards others who had lived here, I presumed the local police would also be aware. They were already aware of several unprovoked incidents such as the cutting of my rubbish bags, my mail interfered with, the intimidation in the early mornings with a tractor and torches being shone into our bedroom - our once pretty right of way now an ugly metal passageway. They must have been aware that the two previous owners of our property had been severely intimidated and driven away, and two other local people had been threatened, one who was a father of a senior police officer! Their attitude and lack of concern was following the same stance as that of Mr. Bowen and Brian Canning. There appeared to be a green light to the neighbours to do as they pleased, with zero concern for us. Friends and family were becoming very concerned for our welfare. How could this be happening.
A few days later, still coming to terms with the assault upon Eddie on our property, an old blue removal lorry which I'd noticed parked amongst their many HGVs, was being worked on in their maintenance shed. As it was perfectly normal practice for them to be working on vehicles, it didn't ring alarm bells as such, it was just business as usual. A couple of hours later, to my utter horror, this monster of a lorry was driven down their paddock and parked alongside our cottage as close to us as they could get it. I rang the council - the police - our solicitors. The council said they would write to the Thomases and ask them to remove it - the police said it is was a civil matter - and our solicitors thought it was disgusting and added weight to our civil case against them. This ugly monster of a lorry was to remain in sight of our windows - blocking light from downstairs, for seven years.
|Needs no explaining|
We were now having to sleep downstairs on some nights in order to get a decent nights sleep as the dog barking appeared to be worse than ever. I decided to contact the council to see if anything could be done. I was sent a log. Eventually a noise abatement notice was served and peace throughout the night was resumed.
My own letters to Carmarthen Council had now prompted a vocal response from our obnoxious neighbours. Eddie had to leave early in the mornings, in the dark for work in Carmarthen. As he would stop to open the newly erected gate at the top of the right of way, he would be subjected to whistling and name calling. This was becoming a daily occurrence. Our solicitors advised that we log all of these incidents with the police. This daily abuse was due to making our concerns known to the council - concerns that others had made before us. This intimidation and abuse we were now suffering, others had suffered before us, but it didn't seem to be of any concern to the council.
Every day as Eddie left for work the neighbours would whistle and call out. One particular morning, 30th. March the Thomases decided to follow Eddie to his place of work in a vehicle that they didn't normally use and one Eddie wouldn't recognise. The particular road where Eddie's firm had their office was in an industrial area. There were no offices nor shops only car parks and a tyre company that inhabited an office at the end of the road. They drove alongside him whilst he parked his car. Andrew Thomas made more threats to stay out of their business - told Eddie they wanted to know where he worked - Karen Thomas took pictures of him - and then drove off across the bridge towards home. Eddie immediately reported this to the police and an Inspector rang him back. He said 'they have gone too far now and this will be dealt with properly'. I was feeling very threatened by these people. Someone had to stop this intimidation of us. I wrote to the council advising them of how the intimidation was escalating. I also made an appointment to meet the council's anti-social behaviour officer as this abuse was directly related to the neighbours unauthorised businesses, and what's more the council knew this was a pattern of behaviour, inflicted upon several others before us - on record.
We've been living here for fifteen months - putting up with endless noisy interference. Eifion Bowen and Brian Canning denying it all - having to drive through an ugly metal passageway, a huge removal lorry parked across our windows blocking light from downstairs, and now threats and intimidation, just like the two other families before us. Surely the police will help us.
We had a visit from a Llandeilo police officer who took a statement from Eddie and said this is harassment and they would be warned under the Harassment Act.
Hopefully now the intimidation and threats would cease. It wouldn't do anything to improve our daily quality of life in having the peace and quiet we expected when we purchased this smallholding though. The ongoing issues with the neighbouring businesses still had to be resolved. My problem was firmly with Carmarthen Council who for some reason were allowing this industrial business to flourish and allowing the hauliers to expand the site by removal of the old quarry, which was against planning regulations as well.
We had taken advice and had logged ten incidents of anti-social behaviour to the local police at Llandeilo from rubbish bags being cut to shreds - our mail interfered with - torches being shone into our bedroom window from 5.30a.m. on several dark mornings - being woken by A.T. crashing his tractor scoop - our right of way altered beyond recognition - an old removal lorry parked across our windows - name calling and whistling at Eddie on his way to work - and now following him to his place of work making threats and taking his picture.
The police and my 1st. warning for harassment.............The day after the Thomases had been warned by the police two officers called on us in the evening. I thought they had come to tell us that the intimidation was going to stop now as the Thomases had been warned. I invited them in and to my utter shock P.C. Thomas said quote "we have come to warn you in the same way as the Thomases have been warned" "you are being warned for harassment". "they have made a counterclaim". I was stunned. I naturally asked him "what for, what have I done". P.C. Thomas said "you've been filming them". I asked - "filming - filming what" P.C. Thomas said "I cannot comment" I asked "why not" He repeated he could not comment. I asked "have they lodged complaints" P.C. Thomas said 'I cannot comment'. I said 'clearly you do not know what I've been filming so I'll tell you'. I told him that I'd filmed lorries on behalf of the council as they had asked me to gather evidence to prove that KBHS was operating from next door without planning permission. I then asked him if filming lorries was a criminal offence. P.C. Thomas said "it is if it is harassing them". I knew that the small amount of filming I had done could not have been seen. No-one knew I had filmed lorries except Mr. Bowen and Mr. Canning. Certainly the neighbours wouldn't have known as it had been done discreetly and in the dark.
I made an official complaint as harassment is where a person has lodged a string of incidents with the police over a period of time. I was advised by the police that the Thomases had not logged any incidents at all and certainly none relative to filming of lorries. It was resolved by way of local resolution.
With regard to the Thomases following Eddie to his place of work, I was later informed by ( now retired ) Inspector Tom Edwards that the Thomases hadn't followed Eddie to work at all. According to Insp. Edwards the Thomases had an appointment in this very road - at 8a.m. He couldn't say where of course. When asked why the Thomases hadn't remained for this appointment but had driven back over the bridge towards home, he said that because the gate across the entrance to the building where these people had this supposed appointment was still closed, they decided not to wait! As the one and only business in this road was a tyre company - one would presume as an Inspector, he would have checked whether or not this was true before advising us that the Thomases were completely innocent of this incident. We did check of course - and of course the Thomases did not have any such appointment. Inspector Edwards went on to tell Eddie they did not film him nor did they make any threats. As Insp. Edwards was not present when this took place it was indefensible of him to attempt to reconstruct this entire incident to suit the Thomases.
As for the film footage I took for the council showing four and five HGVs going out of Blaenpant each day and coming back in the evenings - Eifion Bowen was to accuse me of 'doctoring it'.
I think at this point it was safe to assume the council were giving 'favour' to the owners of this haulage business in allowing them to continue operating without planning and change of use. I was being portrayed as a dishonest person who was creating false evidence against my neighbours who were doing nothing wrong.
As for the police I was losing all faith and questioning were they another arm of the council? What have we moved into?