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Wronged pensioners’ compensation hopes dashed

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Trisha Breckman in her cottage garden: Next door to the neighbours from hell

Trisha Breckman in her cottage garden: Next door to the neighbours from hell

TRISHA BRECKMAN (73) thought that 13 devastating years were coming to an end.

She thought that, having received a full apology from Dyfed- Powys Police for being wrongly arrested several times for alleged harassment, and after the evidence she and partner Eddie Roberts (79) had amassed of victimisation by neighbour Andrew Thomas, a scrap metal dealer, and his late wife Karen, their lives might return to normal. She thought that evidence of their victimisation by Carmarthenshire County Council and by the police might be the start of an unhindered path towards compensation for stress, ill health, and the loss of the opportunity to start a cattery business for which she and Eddie had planning permission.

How wrong she was. The council is denying any liability.

WHISTLE BLOWERS

The pensioner couple, from Pantycastell Fach, Maesybont, were whistle-blowers about failings in Carmarthenshire’s planning control activities, failures later corroborated by a planning inspector and by the Public Services Ombudsman. In response, the County Council labelled the duo as persistent complainers and officers were instructed not to respond to them.

Trisha and Eddie bought Pantycastell Fach in 2003, in total ignorance of complaints on file in Carmarthenshire’s planning department about unauthorised industrial activities at the neighbouring farm, Blaenpant, where a haulage business was operating without planning permission – a fact which the planning department opted to deny, despite filmed evidence to the contrary. Quarrying, welding, scrap metal cutting, tyre burning and other industrial processes were also taking place.

Trisha was arrested five times for allegedly harassing Andrew Thomas and the late Karen Bowen Thomas, although filming shows Trisha and Eddie being harassed, probably in retaliation for telling the council about industrial operations on Blaenpant next door. The stress and costs of trying to tackle the harassment, which included the installation by Andrew Thomas of motorway-style crash barriers to narrow the access track to Pantycastell Fach, and the erection of lockable gates across the track, meant that the planned cattery business was never launched.

ZURICH MUNICIPAL TAKES THE CLAIM

The sorry saga, which was catalogued in The Herald’s August 26 issue (p.10), led Trisha to a meeting in April with County Council Chief Executive Mark James to discuss compensation. On May 16, Stephen Morgan, in the Audit, Risk and Procurement Department at the County Council, wrote to Trisha Breckman confirming that the ‘matter has been referred to the council’s liability insurers, who are Zurich Municipal… the Carmarthenshire team at the insurers will be dealing with your claim’. The letter states in bold type: “The basis for the claim is that there has been fault on the part of the council, and it is therefore necessary for you to prove that they have been negligent in law.”

The letter ended with a warning about preventing and detecting fraud.

WEIGHTMANS’ ‘SUCCESSFUL TRACK RECORD OF DEFENDING A WIDE VARIETY OF CLAIMS’

June, July and August went by, and Trisha heard nothing, so she decided to phone Zurich for an update on progress, only to learn that Zurich has passed the claim on to lawyers Weightmans LLP, whose website says: “The Weightmans local government team provides defence and supporting legal services relating to all civil claims against local authorities.

“We have a successful track record of defending a wide variety of claims including simple trips and slips, professional negligence claims against social services and education departments, stress, harassment and bullying claims, human rights cases and officials’ indemnity matter (sic).”

CLAIM REDUCED TO ‘LOSS OF BUSINESS OPPORTUNITY’

This week, Trisha Breckman spoke to Andrew Cooper, a partner in Weightmans and head of their National Public Sector Group. She then received an email from Mr Cooper saying: “When we spoke, you said that you had suffered losses and injury as a result of the council’s actions. I explained to you the type of evidence that you needed to produce in support of any such claim. Indeed, it would be very helpful if you could provide an idea of the amount of the financial losses which you wish to recover. You said that your proposed business did not get going because of the council’s negligence so it would be very helpful if I could see:

Any projections for your business, especially those provided to the bank: as discussed, you cannot recover the income lost as of course you would also have costs associated with your business. You can, though, seek loss of profit.

Any evidence substantiating those projections.

Any correspondence with the bank about a loan.

The dates when you seek losses from.

Tie-in the dates from when you seek losses to the dates of any negligence by the council.

We discussed the fact that this is a ‘loss of chance’ claim as there was no guarantee that your business would be successful.

You also said that you had suffered injury, so if you have any medical evidence, for example from a GP or psychiatrist, that would be helpful.”

COUNCILLOR: COUNCIL’S NEGLIGENCE CAUSED UNTOLD DAMAGE

Cefin Campbell, Trisha’s local County Councillor who has given strong support to her and Eddie, is disappointed at the attitude adopted by the council’s insurers and the insurer’s lawyers.

He told her: “My worry is that the insurance company is missing the point! The loss of earnings from your proposed cattery is not the main issue here but the untold damage that the council’s negligence has had on your physical and mental health.”

He added: “You deserve some form of compensation for your suffering and this is what should be emphasised more than the loss of opportunity from your aborted business!”

“It’s like having to start all over again,” said Trisha Breckman. “Far from accepting the findings of the police, the planning inspector and the Ombudsman, the council seems to be set on defending itself against our claim. To press ahead, we really need to have a legal team of our own, but after all that has happened, and the legal bills to we incurred in the fight to prove our innocence, there is no way we can afford new legal costs.”

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Whitland Carnival 2019

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DECORATED floats And walkers took to the streets of Whitland on Saturday July 3 for The Annual Carnival. The parade through the streets terminated at The Town’s Park for judging and entertainment.
Photo credit: Malcolm Richards Photography.

The Toy Story Float.

The Harrison Public House

The Over 75s

Stars of the 80s

50 years of Scooby Doo

Steffan and Anwen Walters

Celebrating 50 years since Man on Moon

John and Gaynor take one Giant leap.

Whitland Fairy Queen and attendants.

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Prestigious Green Flag awarded to Pembrey Country Park

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CARMARTHENSHIRE’S Pembrey Country Park has become the only place in Wales to hold a Blue Flag and a Green Flag, owing to its fantastic environment and friendly welcome.

The Park has been a long-time holder of the prestigious Blue Flag for Cefn Sidan Beach, but has for the first time been awarded a Green Flag by Keep Wales Tidy in recognition of achieving the international mark of a quality park.

Over 220 parks and green spaces have met the high standards needed to receive the coveted award on sites as diverse as urban parks, housing estates, university campuses and farms.

Whilst Pembrey Country Park has won the full award, three other Carmarthenshire attractions have won community awards – Pontyberem Park, Troserch Woodland and the National Wool Museum Dye Garden.

Cllr Peter Hughes Griffiths, Executive Board Member for Culture, Sport and Tourism, helped raise the flag at Pembrey Country Park on Tuesday.

“This is a fantastic achievement for Pembrey Country Park, and we are proud to be the only place in Wales to hold both the Green and Blue Flags – a sign of the quality attraction we have here in Carmarthenshire,” he said.

“We are lucky to have this beautiful space on our doorstep, which is enjoyed by thousands of local families as well as tourists who flock to the park to enjoy its stunning scenery and attractions.”

To be awarded, the park has to meet international standards in key areas, including being welcome, healthy, safe and secure; being well maintained and clean, with well-managed environment and biodiversity; involving the community in maintaining the landscape and heritage of the park; as well as management, marketing and communication.

The Green Flag Award programme is delivered in Wales by environmental charity, Keep Wales Tidy, with support from Welsh Government. It is judged by green space experts, who volunteer their time to visit applicant sites and assess them against eight strict criteria, including biodiversity, cleanliness, environmental management and community involvement.

Lesley Jones, Keep Wales Tidy Chief Executive, said: “We’re delighted to be celebrating this year’s Green Flag Awards at Pembrey Country Park. It’s particularly special as this is the only site to hold both a Blue Flag and Green Flag this year – a huge achievement for the team of staff and volunteers who work tirelessly to maintain the high standards demanded by these two international awards.

“You have amazing sites on your doorstep. Make the most of the summer and explore your local award-winning parks and green spaces.”

A full list of award winners can be found on the Keep Wales Tidy website www.keepwalestidy.cymru

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New First Minister announces his cabinet

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HE FIRST MINISTER FOR WALES, Mark Drakeford, has today announced his new look cabinet to lead Wales. The First Minister said: “It is an enormous privilege for me to be appointed First Minister of Wales. Every leader needs a strong team around them, and I am delighted to introduce my new cabinet which is a strong mix of experience, talent and passion.

“Brexit is our greatest challenge.  In the extraordinary and regrettable circumstances created by the UK Government, it is vital that we prepare for all outcomes. I have retained Ministers in posts where their experience of Brexit preparation is key, while creating a new post to reflect the priority I attach to international relationships and trade.

“As a government we will continue to speak up for Wales, to fight our country’s corner and make sure the government in London is never in any doubt at all of what matters to the people of Wales.”

Cabinet and Deputy Ministers

Vaughan Gething
Minister for Health and Social Services  – Y Gweinidog Iechyd a Gwasanaethau Cymdeithasol

Julie Morgan
Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services – Y Dirprwy Weinidog Iechyd a Gwasanaethau Cymdeithasol

Eluned Morgan
Minister for International Relations and the Welsh Language – Gweinidog y Gymraeg a Chysylltiadau Rhyngwladol

Dafydd Elis-Thomas
Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism – Y Dirprwy Weinidog Diwylliant, Chwaraeon a Thwristiaeth

Ken Skates
Minister for Economy and Transport – Gweinidog yr Economi a Thrafnidiaeth

Lee Waters
Deputy Minister for Economy and Transport – Dirprwy Weinidog yr Economi a Thrafnidiaeth

Julie James
Minister for Housing and Local Government – Y Gweinidog Tai a Llywodraeth Leol

Hannah Blythyn
Deputy Minister for Housing and Local Government – Y Dirprwy Weinidog Tai a Llywodraeth Leol

Rebecca Evans
Minister for Finance and Trefnydd – Y Gweinidog Cyllid a’r Trefnydd

Kirsty Williams
Minister for Education – Y Gweinidog Addysg

Lesley Griffiths
Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs – Gweinidog yr Amgylchedd, Ynni a Materion Gwledig

Jeremy Miles
Counsel General Designate and Brexit Minister – Y Darpar Gwnsler Cyffredinol a’r Gweinidog Brexit

Jane Hutt
Deputy Minister and Chief Whip – Y Dirprwy Weinidog a’r Prif Chwip

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