notes in red - only a partial analysis of this document has been
completed - this is a backup - original analysis on FIRST
AND LAST - CLICK HERE)
Dear Mr Richards,
Further to your correspondence below, please find attached my letter of response – I trust you will find my comments of assistance.
The Council has treated your concerns as a Stage 2 Complaint under our Complaints Process. Although you have not deemed your concerns a complaint, it was felt that this was the best process to consider your concerns and to ensure you had a response on the issues you raised.
In the event you are dissatisfied, you are of course able to make a referral the Public Service Ombudsman for Wales via their website
With regards – Ceri.
The letter was attached as a .pdf - the
information from the .pdf is contained below.................
Mr D Richards, On behalf of: Glynneath Residents “say enz-NO” Group
BY EMAIL ONLY
Dear Mr Richards,
Re: Heol Y Glyn, Glynneath – Are Neath Port Talbot Council contravening the
Environmental Protection Act 1990?
In your email of the 19th April 2020 directed to the Leader of Neath Port Talbot Council
(“the Council”), you refer to a number of concerns where you feel the Council has not
upheld its responsibilities in relation to the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and as
part of this, you highlighted concerns in regard to the conduct of my Development
Manager, Mr Steve Ball, specifically the handling of the (current) planning application at
the above mentioned site and the fact that Mr Ball had not answered questions that had
been raised with him. In line with the Council’s protocols, these concerns were forwarded to me for me to
consider and respond to you accordingly. As Head of Service, I was appointed to
oversee this investigation and respond to you to demonstrate the
seriousness as to how the Council takes such matters and to ensure your views are considered in detail.
Notwithstanding the fact that in a subsequent email to myself (dated 28th April 2020),
you indicated that you did not wish to make a complaint, I have since advised that the
matters you have raised in your email of 19th April would nevertheless require
investigation in order to ensure your views can be considered in an open and
transparent manner. As part of my investigation, I have held discussions with all relevant officers and
reviewed the extensive and continued correspondence that you have submitted to the
Planning Department in respect of the current planning application associated with the
Heol Y Glyn site.
Dealing first with the conduct of Mr Ball, you have referred to the ‘Policy Statement and
General Principles of Code of Conduct’ which states:
"The public is entitled to expect the highest standards of conduct from all
employees……The role of such employees is to serve the Authority in providing advice,
implementing its policies, and delivering services to the local community. In performing
their duties, they must act with integrity, honesty, impartiality and objectivity. Public
confidence in the Authority and in an employee's integrity would be shaken if the least
suspicion were to arise that an employee could in any way be influenced by improper
I note that you then state that Mr Ball has been ‘openly ignoring and refusing to address
[your] legitimate concerns regarding planning at Heol Y Glyn’ and allege that this ‘brings
into question the planning departments integrity, impartiality and objectivity’ and
‘constitutes a breach of your code of conduct [which] erodes [your] confidence in the
Council’. You have further inferred in your email that Mr Ball is not ‘impartial’ because
he has stated that he sees ‘no reason why matters of land contamination cannot be
addressed in the usual manner through imposition of conditions’.
(if the NPTC were to impose conditions on
the site then they should have done so in 2008 when the
contamination was first discovered and not then allowed the
Cuddy Group to submit a new survey without chemical testing)
In response, I would advise that Mr Ball is a highly qualified and respected Planning
Officer with considerable experience of the Development Management process, and I
am wholly satisfied that both in general terms, and on this case in particular, that he has
and continues to uphold the highest standard of conduct at all times.
While I note that Mr Ball has advised you that the Department would not be able to
continue to respond to you, citing your continued and extensive correspondence, he
has nevertheless sent you a very comprehensive email on 9th April 2020 seeking to
address the issues you have raised. While you might disagree with Mr Ball, I consider
this to be very good service on his part. Furthermore, I wish to advise that I am fully
supportive of the general stance taken by Mr Ball to cease further responses to you and
instead to deal with matters in the Department’s assessment of the application in
question, not least because even in ‘normal’ times officers are unable to respond to
emails on individual applications, and in these extraordinary times officers simply do not
have the capacity to do so. I would also add that the comments made by Mr Ball in respect of land contamination
are his professional views (professional
views = personal opinions what chemical qualifications does he
hold) at this time based on the information the Department has
available, and based on his considerable experience and the fact that this site has an
extant planning permission – i.e. material operations
comprising the development or the use authorised by the permission at the site have been initiated before the time limits
set by condition have expired. (he is
using bullshit terminology because he is trying to confuse,
there is no evidence of planning approval within the last 5
Accordingly, I find that Mr Ball has undertaken his duties to date in a highly professional
manner and that there has been no breach of any code of conduct.
Turning specifically to the issue of land contamination at the site and whether the
Council has historically contravened the Environmental Protection Act 1990, I would
advise that this legislation no longer applies when a site is going through the planning
process; by definition therefore the Council has not at any point contravened its duties
under this legislation, as it is not relevant once the planning process has commenced.
What is relevant however, is that through the planning process, the Council is required
to address land contamination to ensure sites are safe and suitable for use after
development has been completed. Mr Ball has already quite rightly drawn your attention
to the fact that these matters are routinely addressed throughout the process in
consultation with the Council’s specialist officers on land contamination matters, as well
as in responses from Natural Resources Wales (NRW).
I note that the Geo-Technical and Geo-Environmental Report to which you refer, which
supported planning application P2008/1462, did find low levels of contamination
(personal opinions what chemical
qualifications does he hold) and concluded that clean cover should be provided in residential gardens which would
mitigate all risk posed by any contamination present at the site.
As part of ongoing consideration of the current application therefore, my officers will be
giving full regard to all available information, and given the date of the historical report
referenced above, will need to make a judgement call as to whether a new updated
study is required.
In conclusion, while I appreciate that you are concerned about the development of the
site in question, and wish to ensure that matters such as contamination and wider
impacts on amenity are appropriately considered, I am wholly satisfied that a decision
on the application will be made in due course in an open and transparent manner, and
that all matters raised will be appropriately considered through the determination
Furthermore, I would note that the application has been ‘called-in’ by your local
Members for a decision by members of the Planning Committee and through their
review of the report (which would be publicly available for inspection in advance) they
will ensure that they are satisfied that local concerns are adequately addressed before
reaching their decision.
Should however you consider at a later stage that the Local Planning Authority has
failed to act properly, then it would be open to you to raise this first as a formal complaint
to the Council and then, if you remain dissatisfied, to the Public Services
Ombudsman. Alternatively you are of course able to pursue a judicial review of the
Council’s decision. However, please be assured all legal and procedural processes will
be complied with in decision making.
At this time however, I reiterate that I am wholly satisfied with the conduct of my officers
and of their ongoing assessment of the application in question. Moreover that when the
application is reported to members of the Planning Committee in future (in whatever
form that exists at the time due to Covid-19), I am confident that your concerns will be
appropriately addressed in their report and, in the event of a positive recommendation,
in any relevant conditions they would recommend are imposed.
Finally, while writing, I would wish to reiterate the advice given by Mr Ball that the
Department will no longer respond to your requests for information or respond to your
questions. Instead, I give you the assurance that any representations you make or have
made expressing any issues or concerns with the development will be considered as
part of our assessment of the application in question.
I trust you will find my response of assistance.
The Council has treated your concerns as a Stage 2 Complaint under our Complaints
Process. Although you have not deemed your concerns a complaint, it was felt that this
was the best process to consider your concerns and to ensure you had a response on
the issues you raised.
In the event you are dissatisfied, you are of course able to make a referral the Public
Service Ombudsman for Wales via their website (www.ombudsman.wales).
Yours sincerely, - Mr Ceri Morris - Head of Planning and Public Protection