THE MID WALES HOSPITAL SCANDAL

 

 

INTRODUCTION / Overall accountability of the Parks 

 

The disposal of the Mid Wales Hospital has been the subject of  much publicity Wales on Sunday and the Western Mail and  a recent two year investigation by the Auditor General for Wales (AGW). However, the inquiry was both partial and classic. Some of the most crucial evidence and witnesses were eliminated from the inquiry on the grounds that it was outside the remit and jurisdiction of  the AGW. This meant that the planning authority (Brecon Beacons National Park - BBNPA ), who had a very direct role and involvement with the development plans and evaluations of the  site, was not investigated or cross-examined. This particular  case is of relevance to the present  Government's Action Plan and LUC Parks Review  as it reveals gaps in the system concerning  governance and accountability at all levels. It is not only the accountability of the executive  to the authority and public  that is in question , but also a need to  define the formal  or informal differences between  the new arrangement  with the assembly minister and civil servants, and that of the old Welsh Office. What seems to be  lacking in the system are fire walls, as the Parks still appear to be  open and exposed  to various forms of  abuse. This might include veiled  opportunities  for  political  and personal expediency, and   the undermining of the democratic system. The following case history illustrates these possibilities in a number of different ways and asks if the present government is going to put  measures in place to ensure that there are checks and balances,  that will  work for the future.

 

THE DISPOSAL OF THE HOSPITAL

 

The Mid Wales Hospital was sold in October 1999. It was closely related to the Welsh Office/Assembly as they were the official owners. For a number of years it was occupied and used by the local Health Authority as a mental health  hospital. The sale seemed to have had all the hall marks of inside trading. It was sold  to one of its  former  chief medical officers and his wife.   Alun Michael MP, who was the   Secretary of State for Wales  and then the Assembly First  Minister, was implicated with having a direct involvement with the disposal and sale to the successful purchasers. Although this was later refuted,  it was found that all normal procedures ,  including  sealed bids, inventories and district valuations were abandoned by the authorities involved with the disposal. The AGW  investigation also  uncovered what appeared  to be a  pay back scheme ,  whereby the Health Trust  arranged   a compensation payment of £128,000  to  be paid to the new owners a few months after completion. This meant that a 43 acre site with 200,000 square feet of  hospital buildings and floor space, plus 5 large family sized houses,  a chapel , tennis court and cricket pitch,  was bought for a cost of only £227,000  (two hundred and twenty seven thousand  pounds ).

 

THE PLANNING / BBNPA involvement.

 

If a planning authority drafts a development  plan  for a 43 acre employment zone and does not  consult with thirteen privately owned homes that adjoin  that site,  then this could be seen as a serious blunder. If this development plan is then officially adopted  by the LPA and then later omitted from the Local Plan Inquiry process and not laid before the inspector, then surely this is incompetence. Then if this planning authority is commissioned to do local searches on an area by solicitors for  conveyancing purposes,  and the site's development plan fails to surface,  then it would seem  the plan  was either lost or purposely hidden. Then  again,  at a later date if  the development plan  happens to surface  or  is  cross referenced and implanted into one of the new  local plan policies as a material consideration, (with a caveat that the inspector and authority had endorsed it), then this could amount to malfeasance , especially if the document was not laid before the inspector in the first place.

 

The Mid Wales Hospital planning brief was adopted as supplementary planning guidance in April 1997. It was the precedent document and development plan for the hospital site before the Local Plan superseded it in May 1999. This was also  the exact period in which the hospital site was put on the market . As we have learnt this adopted  development plan  appears to have been  unavailable and not placed in the public domain.  However,  was used  by the planning  authority in consultations with prospective purchasers , and by  the selling agents as part of the sale's package. The development plan maintained that any  proposals to split the site up and change the uses of the 5 houses into normal private homes would not be supported. The restrictions effectively  made the site worthless to developers. Therefore there was little interest in it and  it was virtually impossible to sell. Then after the sale , (and  unbeknown to the prospective purchasers and other bidders ) ,  it transpired  that many of the BBNPA  planning restrictions were not a reality and  did not apply.  Therefore, we are looking at the  possibility of people being misled and  a chance that there might have been a collusion between the various authorities to deceive the public, contain the 43 acre site as one entity, and  ensure its selling  price  was kept well below its potential value. Even though the AGW were well aware of the  evidence,  and the fact  that an LPA's planning status of  land is totally interlinked with its value  , they were still unable to investigate the planning authority on the grounds that they were outside their remit. However, what motives could have led or driven the authorities to such lengths of what appears to be inappropriate actions ?

 

If an adopted planning document is not placed in the public domain and made accessible, then it  can be assumed that there was something to hide. The planning brief was a thorough document and gave guidance on the acceptable future uses of the site . The only suggestion that was onerous and potentially contentious  was for the site to be  used  as a prison or remand centre. It would have been very suitable. With the planning brief and local plan clauses in  place , (even though they now seem flawed and  spurious), obtaining planning permission for the hospital to become a secured premises  would  have been virtually a forgone conclusion.  Perhaps  the authorities were trying to hide this from the local residents and community ? During the late 1990's it was well known that Wales was under considerable pressure from Whitehall  to deliver sites that could be secured. There was also the urgent and increasing need for asylum seeker centres. It may well have been  a coincidence,  but the  Secretary of State  and First Minister Alun Michael MP was previously a Home Office Minister. At the very least he would have been aware of the national demand , and perhaps he was familiar with the  ear marked sites as well ? In addition  to this from 1996 - 1998   one of  Secretary of State Appointees to the BBNPA was engaged  as a senior adviser  in Bosnia, and was  working alongside the UN, which has major responsibilities to asylum seekers.

 

CONCLUSION

WELSH OFFICE / ASSEMBLY/ PARKS GOVERNANCE & ACCOUNTABILITY

 

People may well ask :- Who was  pulling the strings ? Without a complete audit trail of all authorities and agencies involved and  placing them under oath,  this is difficult to prove. However,  there is no reason why the Welsh Office/ Assembly  estate's division should not have been expedient , if they were doing their job and trying to meet  national  demands. Perhaps the BBNPA were merely trying to  oblige them,  even though they may have been  breaking  almost every rule in the book.  There could  have also  been other and  more private forces at work. For a developer ,  a contract for a private prison, remand or ASD centre , would have been very lucrative and worth well into tens of  £millions ,  with no shortage of government  assistance too.

 

Be that as it may, we  need to look at the present situation of  governance as well as  the attached 'strings' between the  national parks and  assembly government. On November the 3rd 2004 the  Minister Carwyn Jones announced in the assembly that his answer to accountability was that he and his department  wanted closer contact and more meetings with the National Parks .  Will this be with officers or with the  authorities ?  Will there be a democratic representation of the  authority  present ,  or will it   consist of  assembly appointees  and officers only ?  How formal will this contact be  with the government , and  what  protocols and procedures will they abide by ? And finally will the minutes and agendas  be placed in the public domain ?  What is important  is  to make sure the system  is updated  and  there are no more loop holes left,  and that all levels of governance connect and they are accountable to each other. Finally is the present government willing to put  corrective measures in place to prevent the possibility of something similar to the above ever happening  again ?

 

RESIDENTS MEETING  WITH THE  BBNPA.

 

After the 2002 publication of the AGW report, and the Assembly Audit Committee's  inability to get to the roots of what went on, the local residents to the hospital site  conducted their own investigation and audit trail of the BBNPA's  role in the planning and disposal of the hospital. Extensive correspondence was also  exchanged  and still the  authority  failed to answer specific questions in a transparent manner. Finally the group's  former and present  MPs ,  Lord Livsey and Roger Williams , responded and convened a meeting between the group and the authority. The verbatim minutes  with footnotes are reproduced below.

 

November 2004

 

 

FORUM: YOUR COMMENTS and Questions : (Click here)

 

 

 

 

MEETING AT BRECON  BEACONS  NATIONAL  PARK  AUTHORITY

CAMBRIAN  WAY, BRECON

on Friday 2 July 2004, 9.30am

 

PRESENT: (speaking)

 

RL.-     Lord Livsey of Talgarth

RW.-   Roger Williams MP (Brecon & Radnor)

CG.-    Christopher Gledhill Chief Executive, Brecon Beacons National Park 

N B.-   Niel Bally (Local Resident)

MM.-   Mike Mullan (Local Resident)

C K.-   Colin Kleiser (Local Resident)

 

IN ATTENDANCE:

Standby Secretarial Services

and three other Local Residents

 

APOLOGIES: 10  local residents

 

 

RW:  Thank you to Chris for meeting us.  Richard will push us along.

 

CG:          The meeting is at your request to raise concerns, to find possible ways to move forwards.

 

RL:          We are disappointed not to have Planning Officers here - why not?  And why  no response to the documentation and my  email?

 

CG:          I only got it on Tuesday  as I had been away from the office. We are looking at the future, not the past.  We have used one and a half members of staff on this issue over the past year.  There has been the Auditor General’s investigation ( into the disposal of the hospital ). A complaint to the Ombudsman and this group's inquiries. We do have other work to do and staff have other priorities to deal with today.

 

RL:          Let’s look at the statements from the past.  I will ask Neil Bally to start, but please keep it succinct

 

NB:  Starting at 2.3 :(in the Agenda notes)  These are the 3 items to be covered.

 

a) The Inspector’s Local Plan Inquiry Report and its links to the Planning Brief.

 

b) The proposed Modifications to Deposit Local Plan: the words “and the

planning brief” were put in without justification but with apparent endorsement of the Inspector and the Authority.

 

c) The Planning Brief Adoption:  It did not receive  full public consultation - they did not approach us.

 

MM:          You quoted that “a tremendous amount of time had been spent” which shows           that you must have made mistakes in the past.

 

During 1995-96 I was heavily  involved with Trades Union and the Hospital, and I knew everything that was going on.  I never heard of a Planning Brief.  Was it displayed?

 

CG: I will come back to that.

 

MM:          No-one saw any Planning Brief, therefore there was a lack of meaningful consultation.  This means that there was therefore no emphasis whatsoever  on “The Inspector’s endorsement” and it being brought into the Local Plan.”

 

Do you have the minutes to show the discussion with the Inspector?

 

NB:          There were things in the Planning Brief that we didn’t agree with and on which           we could have actually  advised.  We could have eliminated developers having

ideas for prison buildings or secured units, for example. This is the

essential issue.- our Deeds have Rights of Way and drains running through the site.

 

Item b)  Modification HO8 and the suggested change SCHO5 - why  wasn’t it endorsed ?

 

CG: I will come back to that.

 

 

NB:          There were 3 SCH05 changes - 2 are understandable, but one is alien.  I can’t find any reason for the phrase “and the planning brief” being added to Talgarth 4 of the Local Plan. Is it legitimate ?

 

Item a) The Inspector’s Local Plan Inquiry. The Authority  have stated that the

Inspector  “actively  determined against the Planning Brief’s guidance.” You yourself (CG) have written that “the Brief was removed by the Inspector  not the Authority.” There are 3 or 4 strange things - on page 92 of the Inspectors report (documentary evidence).

 

·                      The Inspector’s assessment  didn’t  mention the Planning Brief at all or anywhere else in his report. 4

 

·                     It is not included on the programme officer’s list.

 

·                     There was complete silence from the authority about the Planning Brief at the Inquiry. It was officially  adopted  just before in April 1997, then some official, some member of the Authority,  should have surely  said “We have a Planning Brief, a solution to the peripheral land problem.” (ref Health Authority  objection 107.1A)

 

Have you any record of the meeting ?  And do you have any  detailed minutes or witnesses to say that the Planning Brief was  actually  discussed?  You maintain   it was and the final thing arrived in the Local Plan ?

 

CG:

 

·                      The Brief - it was first with Brecknock Borough Council and it coincided with the Authority coming into existence in 1996, (interjection by NB “April 1996”)  therefore, it was very much a Brief developed outside this organisation.  That is where it came from. 1

 

·                      On the other points raised, the extensive claims and counter-claims by aggrieved residents is that the advice is, as it stands, must be recognised as a disagreement.  It has been to the Ombudsman who stated  that he is “satisfied that the parties dealt appropriately with the Hospital site.” Therefore, we have exhausted all possibilities of going back over a 6 year period. 2

 

It was adopted by the Authority and things have happened thereafter.  Your

·                      view has been that we have acted incorrectly, that we have had other agendas running, and  you reported this to the Ombudsman. 3

 

 

RL:          Was the Inspector aware of the Planning Brief ?

 

CG:  My understanding is “yes” he was.  How could he not be? 4

 

RL  Well he ought to have been.

 

NB.  Perhaps Roger  can  help ? You were on the committee at the time.

 

RW:  I didn't sit in  on the Public Inquiry.  I do not know.

 

CG:  The Officers  around at that time are no longer with the Authority.

 

NB.    Mr Roberts is - he was Head of Development Control and Mr Bowles was in

charge of writing the Local Plan .

 

RW  The Local Development Plan went through “Planning for Real” - everybody  had

the option to comment.  All the information would  have  been  brought into that

Development Plan.

 

NB  We have not seen  evidence of that.

 

MM:  The Chief Executive says the BBNPA was not responsible for the Planning Brief.

However  it  says  here in  the adopted copy “prepared jointly by Brecon Beacons

National Park Authority and Knight Frank.”  6

 

CG       The then Powys County  Council drew up the Planning Brief .

 

RW:  Correct, but that is a very fine point. The National Parks was a committee of the

County Council, although the new Committee drew up the plan. 1

 

MM:  Nobody now knows where the Planning Brief is.

 

RL: A major piece of legislation went through Parliament - and the National Parks

changed its status in 1996.(April)

 

All of us are rightly concerned about the present situation, but it is important to

establish the present and go on to the future.

 

Item 2: There are very specific notes.  I will ask Mike Mullan to state the core facts of 3.1 and what can be done.

 

MM:  What is the situation with all of the Planning Permissions granted at the time (on

March 18 / 02 ) ?  Have all these been issued?

 

CG:          Yes, if  Planning Permission was given and all conditions met, and if they complied, (and please give any  evidence of any  non-compliances).

 

MM:          As far as I know, many are in breach and none have been enforced.  The 106 Agreement is in the hands of a senior officer, and we are waiting for a reply from

him.  We have all the conditions here.

 

CG: If you feel that Officers are not carrying out their jobs, please write to me and I

will investigate.

 

MM:  Landscaping, low- lighting, internal roads not complied with - all up and running and

no compliance.

 

We want to look to the future. The UDP is out now.  Scrap the Planning Brief           and start again.

 

CG:  The Members are working on a new plan  and  decisions  based  on  the

Development Plan.

 

At the end of the meeting, I will explain the UDP progress.  It is up to the members to accept recommendations or not.  If they are not accepted, then reasons will be given in the Minutes.

 

RL:  This can be challenged in a Public Inquiry - read the small print very carefully !

 

CG: If there are breaches, and actions are not taken, it is of great concern to me and  I

will investigate.

 

RL:  We will establish  action and they will be taken  with written evidence.

 

NB:          3.2:  An attractive element of the site is the Chapel.  We must preserve what is good.  If you pulled down the chapel - shipped it out - it is not listed - it’s just a building in the open countryside- then there will be nothing, a huge hole.  And that goes for the main entrance as well. Good examples of period architecture . Can you draw it to the attention of the Development Plan Officer - site appearance is important.

 

RL:  (To the Chief Executive) Do you take that on board?

 

CG:            Now that it has been challenged, yes.The Press Complaints Commission have censured the reporter’s articles. (ref unfavourable  press coverage about the owners, management , present  activities and uses of the site)

 

 

MM:  The complaint put forward to the Press Commission was not upheld. 5

 

CG:  You have that evidence ?

 

MM:  I can arrange for you to see it. It is in the public domain.

 

CG:          As a Planning Authority, the financial status of the proposed owner isn't anything that we can look at.  I have been on site, prior to the planning meeting, and was very  impressed by the approach to the Chapel.  I will see if there is  any way of  safeguarding this - will talk to the Building  Conservation Officer.  I share your concerns.

 

MM:          During the lead-up to the Planning Application, your department said “to pull the chapel down would leave too big a foot print.”

 

RL:  Could a Preservation Order be put on it ?

 

CG: If anyone can find a way, our Building Conservation Officer will.

 

NB:          Agena item 3.3:  There are guidelines and all through the various preceding policies of Planning Policy Wales, regarding supplementary  planning guidance, is  the importance of getting “emphasis”  for it . This planning document was written by  2 or 3 people, and shown to probably  2, 3 or only 4.  Is the Brecon Beacons National Park Authority

carrying on with this sort of lax way  of  consultation?

 

RL:  UDP - are we going to  have  proper consultations on this?

 

RW:          When the Authority was taking decisions on how to consult on Planning Applications. the Electoral Role was one suggestion, but it is difficult to identify everyone. For Planning Applications, it was decided  to put one big obvious notice on site.

 

CG:  From what has been said, it is evident it was not as consultative as it could be.

 

RW:          Consultation for a minor extension is one thing, but the Local Plan Guidance or something bigger is another.There is an intrinsic need to have different consultative processes.

 

CG:          We will look at what happens to Planning Application local notices.  I'm sure there have been  occasions  when they have been blown  away  in  the night.Resource levels are improving within the Development Control Team, and also we are looking at ways to put planning applications onto our web site.  We circulate local Ward members in the National Park with a weekly list.

 

It is an issue.  I would like to seek views around the table on this.We have set up three Area Advisory Committees.  These are Sub-Committees of the National Park who advise the National Park Authority - Local Councillors and Community Councillors are invited to that.  Local community groups are also involved. Talgarth comes within the East Advisory Forum.

 

We have a revision of the Development Plan - I will come back at the end of the

session.

 

RL:  The length of timing of the consultation and type of consultation - is it one month

or 2 months or perhaps in the middle of August, the holiday period?

 

CG:  It is  2 months on the UDP.

 

NB:  We have lost 3 weeks ! Local community councils -  because of  local elections.

 

MM:  This site was probably the largest site in the National Park area, it was and is

extremely special and we  should have been consulted about it  more carefully.

 

CG:  It would appear that despite the work done, residents were not informed. The local

community is very important, as are other communities as well.

 

MM:  But other communities would not have had such a large site.

 

RW:  People living so close should be consulted individually.

 

RL:  Legally house owners have a particular interest.

 

CK:  We weren't able to give input because we were not consulted.

 

NB:          Reference the contact sheets - we at Wernfawr were on a list up to 2 years ago or so.  As  regards to local knowledge, we have direct connections to that site,drains and rights of way,.

 

    Reference site visits :-  The protocol bans us from any site visits. People with   local

knowledge  are  not allowed to site meetings, even people with close contact - those who could identify where drains go - pipe lines - deeds  for example. Things  officers and the committee wouldn’t  have the foggiest about .

 

MM:  The site owners have a covenant on  our houses.

 

NB:          I know the protocol is being reviewed at the end of this month. Will we or the Town Council  be invited  to site visits  ( on the hospital  site ) ?

 

CG:          It will go to the September meeting - there are a number of new members it is important for them to understand the details.  But site visits are requested by  Members to gain additional information.  It is not a process for interested parties to lobby Members.

 

RL:  I'm pretty certain there would be disagreement in the Community about that!

 

RW:          Ref the Town Community Council - Powys County Council and Brecon Beacons National Park depend on the Town Community Council.  They may consult, but they don't consult people living in their town.

 

RL:  Can we establish the length of consultation for the UDP ?

 

NB:          One thing relates to us - the Town Council is to address 1.10 on page 3. In the UDP “Supplementary Planning Guidance is published separately.”  But all supplementary  planning guidance it is not correlated anywhere . There is no “high-lighting” in the document as said, and the Mid Wales Hospital doesn't appear. There will be an objection about this.

 

MM:  This is a fundamental weakness of your strategy.

 

NB:          With regards to the Planning Brief, someone on the site is looking for a Change of Use,  but their  consultant can't find the Planning Brief.  The Authority  says it hasn't got it !  Full circle again . We are not  being told the truth.

 

For the future, forget the employment programme.  Now mixed use, We all have  ideas and we  want  to be part of that decision process.         

 

We  should really re-write the Planning Brief.

 

RW:          Should there be a Planning Brief for the Mid Wales Hospital? The old one or a new one?

 

RL:  You’ll be expecting a submission from this group.

 

CG:          We don't do enough, we have a lack of resources.  Planning takes up 8- 10% of our work. The Welsh Assembly Government is targeting more resources. 

 

We will make sure that the Talgarth Hospital situation will be reconsidered.

 

I am delighted to sit round a table.  It would make more sense if we put it to constructive purposes. 

 

NB:  First we must establish trust.  Nothing over the last 8 years has been straight

forward or above board , or should I say  “ transparent  in  our opinion” ?

 

CG:  We have a completely new team - new Head of Department.  He will lead.

 

 

RL:  Who will that be ?

 

CG  Eric Bowles.   I relate to what you are saying.  There has been a lot of

misunderstanding and it is evident that we have not been  communicating  and involved.Let's work together and build up that trust.

 

Eric heads up all the people who can help.

 

RL:  You want the process - the UDP - in by 28 July 2004.

 

CG: I have brought additional sheets for your comments.

 

RL:          Obviously, lots of people need as much factual information as they can get. What is available to them?  What do they need to make informed representation to the UDP?

 

MM:  Correlation?  It actually  says that it is “highlighted.”  It is not high-lighted.

 

RL:          It would be helpful if they  ( The Mid Wales Hospital Neighbours Group ) get access to correlated documents.   If they put in representation to the UDP, is it acceptable to put in positive, constructive suggestions to formulate the Planning Brief for the future?

 

CG:  That is a good way forward.  We have a Design Guide.

 

NB:  We haven't seen it

 

CG:  It is on how designs can be better incorporated.

 

RL:          A plea from the Chair - could it be in their hands by Wednesday of next week?  It is very important.

 

CG: A Correlated Supplement Planning Guide, para 1.10.

 

NB:  All  SPGs  not just one.

 

RL:          You will have at the end of July a document from this group with positive suggestions about this site. Hopefully a synergy will emerge to produce something meaningful.

 

The Meeting closed at 10.35am.

 

De facto minutes approved by all those present.

 

 

FOOT NOTES  

1.  The Brecon Beacons National Park Authority  (BBNPA) came into existence in April I996. It is evident that much of the initial preparations and drafting of the Planning Brief  were carried out with Knight Frank in the few months before. However, the finalising   work happened after April 1996.  In September 1996 the BBNPA published its summary of the  “ brief ” for distribution and public consultation purposes.  On December 3rd 1996 officers presented the BBNPA with the planning brief  on the pretext that it had been out to public consultations. It was  approved for adoption and  in April 1997 the authority   officially  adopted it as  supplementary planning guidance (SPG). Therefore contrary to what the CEO has  said  the above  appears  to verify  that  the  BBNPA were entirely  responsible for the document.

 

2.  With reference  to  Chief Executive’s  remarks that  the  authority  and Ombudsman “have exhausted all possibilities”  of  the  “extensive claims and counter-claims by aggrieved residents ” and that  these issues should   now  be “recognised as a disagreement ”.

 

·                     All “possibilities” have not been “exhausted” as  many  questions remain unanswered.  There could be legal proceedings , a further ombudsman’s inquiry, public inquiry  or a judicial review. In addition to this  there is  concern over the  future and the  statutory duty of the BBNPA to foster the economic and social well-being  of  this  local  community. This community  surrounds a very  large employment zone which presently  poses  a   potential threat in terms of adverse impacts. The authority’s development plans have clearly not worked.  After five years there has been  virtually  no  progress  in  terms of employment creation and  the majority  of the site remains  empty  and exposed to serious dilapidation.

 

·                     The   mentioned Ombudsman case was  conducted on behalf of   one  local resident,  not a group. The file was closed  in March 2003 and  was not conclusive. In fact the Ombudsman declined to  investigate issues going back six  years  to 1996. Afterwards  the residents   formed a group  and  conducted  their own  investigation  and  an audit trail of the authority’s files and the  hospital’s planning history. This  resulted  in a new  set of   allegations substantiated  by  documentary  evidence. The group’s  inquiry   focussed   on  procedure and the   public consultations  concerning the planning brief  and the adoption of  the  related local plan clause 4.15. To date,  the authority  has not refuted the evidence presented to them, but neither have they  been forthcoming with  requests to clarify  many  of the procedural anomalies that happened. Therefore, the situation seems to be   more of an   “impasse”  rather  than a “ disagreement”.

 

3. The allegation that the authority has “acted incorrectly”  is   a general opinion  held  by  the residents group and others. The most serious of these could  be  malfeasance,  as it has been identified that  the words “and the planning brief”  were implanted  into the adopted Local Plan  (para 4.15 - Talgarth 4).  To date the Authority has not  explained what modification procedure facilitated the above words being added to the adopted Local Plan.  In addition to this  there is  no evidence to  show from the documentation of the  proceedings,  that  the above words  were  legitimately  proposed or aggreed to by the Inspector or the  authority .  Furthermore, the authority has not given a full explanation about  why  local residents were not consulted over the  “brief”  and  why  the document itself  was not presented to the Inspector at the Local Plan Inquiry.

 

In  respect of the above findings  and the CEO’s comments  about  the  allegations that the authority  had  “other agendas running”,  there are a numerous   reasons to believe there was a hidden agenda  and the hospital   was being    ear marked  for a   remand or asylum seekers centre. At the time  the national  demand was  there and the authority proffered the idea  in the 1996 planning brief  as being  acceptable, but possibly unpopular with the local community.   Suspicions  were first aroused in 1999 when  various rights of way  across  the site were obsrtucted , and one resulted in  a court case. Later there was an inquiry  into the hospital’s disposal by the Auditor General for Wales, which  did not  investigate the BBNPA as they  were not within  the AGW’s jurisdiction. When  an overview  is  taken  of  the  circumstances and  related events , and  then set   against  the BBNPA’s consistent lack of transparency  with the hospital’s development plans and its evasion of public consultations, then the above  allegation seems very plausible and not without grounds.

 

4. Contrary to the impression given through various officers’ reports since March 2002, that the Inspector was aware of the planning brief, it  was  recently  discovered  that  the Inspector did not refer to or mention  the “ brief” in any  of  his  Local Plan Inquiry assessments. Neither was the document included in the programme officer’s list.  Therefore, it  is  very  doubtful that the Inspector  assessed the  “ brief”  at the local plan inquiry.

 

5 Copies of this ruling can be obtained from the Press Complaints Commission or directly from the Editor, Western Mail, and Cardiff. Tel: 02920 583 667. The complaint was not upheld.

 

6. Printed inside the back sleeve of the September 1996  summary  of the  planning brief was the following consultation document.    

 

            YOUR OPPORTUNITY TO COMMENT   

 

“The National Park Authority  is now seeking your views on the planning

 brief in accordance with its policy of involving the community in planning

 policy. Your views will be reported to the Park  Planning Board when it

 meets in December 1996. Comments can be addressed through the

 Talgarth Action Group, The Talgarth Regeneration Group, Talgarth Town

 Council or  direct  to Ian Roberts at the National Park Authority.”

 

The Mid Wales Hospital is half  a mile outside the settlement area of  Talgarth. Surrounding the hospital  and  adjoining its grounds is a community of  13 privately  owned houses. The National Park Authority  failed to  consult any  of these householders about the hospital plans . Consequently no one knew of the planning brief  or its recommendations until five years later.

         

          *******

Footnotes compiled by the Mid Wales Hospital Adjacent Neighbours Group (MWHANG) October  2004