FORGERS WROTE 20% OF LETTERS SUPPORTING SULLY DEVELOPMENT

The grassy fields of the Sully Sports Club

A “hybrid development” with 200 new homes, four new sports pitches, a new bowling green and a new club house is proposed on the site of the existing Sully Sports and Social Club…but there was something fishy about the “letters of support” which the Vale Council received for the project.

Twenty percent of all the letters sent to the Vale of Glamorgan Council supporting the planning application to develop a huge new housing estate on the grounds of Sully Sports and Social Club are probably forgeries – a council report has revealed.

Council investigators from the internal audit team appear to have discovered what looks like a co-ordinated attempt to exaggerate the degree of public support for the contentious project.

If the council’s suspicions prove correct,  its investigators may have uncovered one of the most serious attempts ever made to interfere with the planning process in the Vale of Glamorgan .

The site for which planning permission has been applied is bordered in red.

The site for which planning permission has been applied is bordered in red.

The development proposals –  to build 200 homes on the site –  have been submitted by a large and reputable stock-market-quoted public company St Modwen PLC  which acquired the bulk of the freehold in 2008.

The sports facilities would be concentrated in a smaller area than at present – with a replacement clubhouse, three grassed pitches, an all-weather pitch, a new bowling green,  pavilion and a touring caravan site, The 200 new homes would be built in an adjacent area .

The Sully Sports Club site runs down to the coast - and Sully Island can be seen in the distance

The Sully Sports Club site runs down to the coast – and Sully Island can be seen in the distance

The discovery of the percentage of mass forgeries now raises doubts about the validity of a large proportion of the 782 letters submitted to the council which purport to be from members of the public supporting the scheme .

The first hint that something was wrong came when the Vale of Glamorgan Planning Department was contacted by a member of the public about a support letter which bore his name and address –  but which he denied ever having written.

It was also established that no one else living at the same address had written the letter. The real author – who evidently forged the signature on the letter –  remains a mystery.

The Vale Council Planning Department called in its internal audit team. Faced with a mound of 782 letters supporting the proposed St Modwen housing development, the team retrieved an initial  batch of  378 of the letters –  and then homed-in on a “randomly-selected” sample of 128 which were analysed in detail. Of that sample the audit team has concluded that 25 of the letters supporting the scheme (amounting to 20% of the sample) “may not be genuine”  .    

The Sully Sports and Social Club is operated by a limited company called Barry Plastics Sports and Leisure Ltd whose company secretary is the chairman of the Vale of Glamorgan Planning Committee Cllr Fred Johnson

The Sully Sports and Social Club is operated by a limited company called Barry Plastics Sports and Leisure Ltd whose company secretary is the chairman of the Vale of Glamorgan Planning Committee Cllr Fred Johnson

The St Modwen planning application  comes up before the Vale of Glamorgan Planning Committee on Thursday November  3rd. The detailed internal Vale Council report warns councillors on the planning committee that “Members should be aware of all the above when applying weight to the support as conveyed in these letters. “

Cllr Fred Johnson Chairman of the Vale Planning Committee wil;l have to leave teh chamber during discussion of the proposal because he is the company secretary of the firm which owns the Sully Sports and Leisure Club

Cllr Fred Johnson Chairman of the Vale Planning Committee will have to leave the chamber during discussion of the proposal because he is the company secretary of the firm which owns the Sully Sports and Leisure Club

The chairman of the Vale of Glamorgan Planning Committee, Cllr Fred Johnson (Labour Cadoc Ward Barry) is listed at Companies House as being the Company Secretary of the Barry Plastics Sports and Leisure Company Ltd which operates the Sully Sports and Social Club.

As a matter of routine Cllr Johnson will be expected to declare an interest and leave the council chamber when this matter is discussed by the Vale of Glamorgan planning committee at its meeting on Thursday.

Getting public support for the proposal has been crucial for the developers St Modwen

A stall was to have been set up to promote the scheme at one of the regular weekend car-boot sales which are open to the public at the sports club at weekends – but getting those signatures wasn’t easy.

On May 20th a St Modwen project director Gareth Scannell sent an email to the club – sending a copy to a recipient whom he called “Fred” :-

“Dear All . I am writing as I understand that we are struggling to get 4 people to attend the car boot this Sunday to obtain signatures on the letters of support that are needed.  Could you let me know whether you would be available or could advise of names of those that might be available to do this on the basis that the car boot sale is on this Sunday.  We do not have many more opportunities for this so this weekend is very important to obtain as many letters of support as possible.

Please could everyone on this email return to me with their ability to do this or not and whether they could recommend anyone who normally attends the car boot that would be willing to do this – we need 4 people ideally.  Many thanks. Regards Gareth Scannell Project Director.”

In the event it’s understood that this particular car-boot sale was postponed because of heavy rain and waterlogged ground. Despite that setback however , evidently St Modwen was eventually successful in obtaining no fewer than 782 signatures of support from the general public – but the Vale of Glamorgan Council is now saying the veracity of some of these should not be relied upon by councillors.

 

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33 Responses to FORGERS WROTE 20% OF LETTERS SUPPORTING SULLY DEVELOPMENT

  1. Christopher David says:

    St Modwen is reported to have performed many holy miracles at Burton Abbey, to this day the well on the site is said have healing properties. She reportedly died at the age of 130. Ah another miracle in Sully. Where will it all end? Burton Abbey water served at VOG council meetings maybe!

  2. Penileaks says:

    Well done the VoG for spotting this instance of fraudulent misrepresentation.
    I wonder how many other times this method has been used in the area ?

    • Michael says:

      Did ‘the VoG’ spot it? Surely they were obliged to investigate after a member of the public complained they had not written one of the letters. I hardly think they ‘spotted’ it.
      I believe attempting to sway opinion by such fraudulent means is a complete scandal. Why is it being played down?

  3. Philip Dawson says:

    Can anybody say how many letters were received that were against the proposal?

  4. Martha says:

    I don’t think I believe a word anyone says anymore.

  5. Kevin Mahoney says:

    A very disturbing revelation, I was contacting the Vale planning department this morning anyway after being contacted by a local resident who spotted the similarities between the hand writing of signatures on a number of the submission’s of support.

    There are other concerns that I have over a number of template letters signed without addresses which have been circulated around the club amongst it’s members which I fail to see why they have been accepted as objections presented online by the Vale.

    Something smells to high heaven over this attempt to influence the opinion of the planning committee.

    I have this morning contacted the Vale and am in the process of contacting the Head of audit to ask for the matter to be referred to the Police.

    i feel that action needs to be taken to deter others from attempting similar actions in future planning applications

    I enclose a link to the statement that I put out on Friday 28th on this matter

    http://www.your-councillor.com/kevin-mahoney/news/?newsid=1162

    • Simon says:

      Bravo, Mr Mahoney, for making a stand against such wrong doing. This seems to me to be very much a matter for South Wales Police.

    • Paul says:

      Completely agree, refer it to the police and wider press. Seems planning recently is deeply flawed and will be the ruination of this town at the expense of developers.

      One question though, how can I see the objections or support letters raised against this or the cosmestion development on line? Even the vog website seems designed to make objecting a development almost impossible

      • Kevin Mahoney says:

        Here you go Paul

        The Vale of Glamorgan website is totally and utterly confusing and is a matter that i have been mentioning to officers of the council for some time now. I have a great deal of difficulty finding anything myself and it is so confusing that having found something and trying to find it again the next day for example it is virtually impossible again. I often have to revert to ringing up the relevant department to be talked through step by step and even then quite often the officers of the council themselves get confused whilst doing this.

        Here is the link http://vogonline.planning-register.co.uk/PlaRecord.aspx?AppNo=2015%2f00843%2fFUL

        The letters of submission start by address of the submittee at the bottom and continue on for quite a few pages. Note, not all submission letters are on there as this application was started before the Vale began automatically logging all letters ( all submitted letters whether put online or not in this case are of course opened and kept in the Vale planning dept for inspection in this case)

        Just to add to the confusion when following the link to see the further letters that are posted online you have to click on the next page from the numbers at the bottom of the page, a page will come up again with the planning application address details of Sully Sports and you then have to click documents on the tab at the top of the page for the next page of submission letters from the public to come up…repeat for each new page.

        And I think that just about sums up how inadequate the process is for interested members of the public to find anything.

        Best of Luck in your search, please don’t hesitate to report back on any anomalies that you might spot.

        Kevin Mahoney

        Independent Cllr Sully and Lavernock ward

  6. Mike baker says:

    Wow !!!…this certainly needs independent scrutiny, is someone about to makea huge profit ??

  7. Christopher David says:

    Yes indeed, wheels within wheels flaked by smoking mirrors. Sullygate needs both the police to investigate and an independent audit. While “we’re” at it better investigate the other “dodgy” (its subjective) planning applications for the area. In general the success of these applications does on the surface appear one sided. VOG v the People- the people they are supposed to represent!!

  8. Frank Evans says:

    We’re some of them written on the back of previously used post-it notes?
    Powers that be will stop at nothing to get their own way

  9. Rob Harris says:

    As an ex Penarth & Sully resident,I am amazed that this and the Cog road housing schemes have got as far as they have. After having lived in Sully 2002/04 and travelled into work in Cardiff over that time ,I am well aware of the traffic problems as they were and how much worse the impact is now in Dinas Powis, Redlands Road and Windsor Road. The attitude of the planning committee seems to be contrary to the wishes of the local community and totally ignorant of the effect on the health,transport and educational logistics of the area. It’s actually quite frightening to think that the running of the council is the hands of these people

  10. Peter Church says:

    I am truly gob smacked that this has been discovered.
    As in the words of Bernstein and Woodward, just follow the money if your want to find the guilty parties.
    Well done Mr Kevin Mahoney for unearthing this underhanded scheme to subvert planning!!

    PS If only some other Local Councillors were so diligent, rather than spending every waking hour updating their Twitter accounts.

    • Kevin Mahoney says:

      To be fair Peter I didn’t unearth it, I wouldn’t like to claim credit for something that I wasn’t responsible for, it was discovered purely by an eagle eyed resident who spotted that a letter of support using his/her name and address had been lodged and followed it up with the planning dept who instigated an investigation by the Vale audit department.

      Coincidentally I was contacting the Vale this morning anyway as another resident had contacted me after spotting a number of similarities in the writing of signatures on a number of submissions off support and I had also noted a number of templated letters supplied by the sports club signed with various names but no addresses.

      I understand that 4 different versions of template letter were being circulated around the club with members and guests being urged to sign them.

      Letters of support have come from addresses in Blackwood, Newport, just outside London Builth Wells and other locations miles from Sully.

      Now that is perfectly legal, however indicates the lengths that the club went to to fabricate a false illusion of large support for their plans.

      I also find it disturbing the contents of the Email published in this report which if genuine indicates the shallow and shabby participation of the developers in drumming up this false illusion of bolstering a large number of support letters. and quite clearly planning to do it by means of a stall at a car boot sale attended by people from all over South Wales who will never have to live with the consequences of another large housing estate shoehorned into the area (ironically I would guess that if the development went ahead there is likely to be not enough room left for car boot sales at the site).

      I have spoken to the head of Audit who confirmed that the matter had already been passed to the Police by her department.

      As I have previously pointed out, the planning committee is a quasi judicial entity and I would assume ( rightly or wrongly) that an attempt at fraudulent behaviour to deceive it is a criminal offence, maybe a lawyer might confirm this.

      I understand that St Modwen’s are quickly shovelling the blame for the signature and letter gathering on the club today in conversations with reporters despite the Email published above.

      Apart from the disgusting behaviour of whoever has organised this deceitful behaviour in this instance this really has implications for all future applications in the Vale and I feel that all large numbers of submissions of support or objection should now have a sample audit carried out in the future.

      I’m hopeful that the Police take this very seriously and during investigations someone might crack and spill the beans.

    • Frank Evans says:

      Pictures of toes on twitter! Can we get some professional councillor candidates for next year’s election so we don’t end up like the USA with the dregs.

      • Lindsay says:

        Not sure what you mean by a “professional councillor candidate” but the notion of independents is popular here. Why not go for it Frank? Ready made campaign slogan – “Thank heavens for Frank Evans”.

      • Frank Evans says:

        Lindsay, I would class as professional, somebody who does not feel the need to post pictures of their toes on twitter. Maybe you have a different definition with your red tinted glasses☺

      • Lindsay says:

        I assume you are referring to Lis Burnett, who appears to be something of an obsession. If so, her flagging up a very painful injury would not seem to reflect on her professionalism.

      • Peter Church says:

        Feed up with Moore and Burnett.
        Voters opinions they just don’t get.
        Why not try something new?
        Support someone without a clue.
        For Linsday is no great Threat.

  11. Christopher David says:

    Maybe the WG should look at putting the VOG into special measures until this and all pending large housing planning applications are audited. The Vale is looking like Anglesey at the moment! Surely everything concerning housing developments should be cancelled. Remember this is a council that can’t produce a meal on wheels budget. I’m beginning to wonder just how deep this all goes, how extensive the web is. Its noticeable the usual “plants” that spout off here in support of anything the VOG do are very quiet. I’m sure the good councillors would welcome an investigation, they must be very frustrated themselves.

    • Lindsay says:

      Do you mean the Vale of Glamorgan Council which, in September, for the second year running, was rated the best performing local authority in Wales by the Data Unit Wales? Let’s not get ahead of ourselves with pointless speculation and conspiracy theories before the facts are known.

      • Christopher David says:

        Ah a plant has spouted. Up the plants.Now back to real people. Frank I hope you’re correct and if their is any justice in this Loopy Labour Wales then you should be.The consensus is overwhelmingly, make the VOG accountable and open. Any problems with that oh cringers? Every large housing planning application should now be under investigation. Anything less is dereliction.

      • Lindsay says:

        A plant? Not banging on about the roundabout again are you? Frank a real person? Hmmmm.

    • susan says:

      I completely agree that the WG should be putting the VOG into ‘special measures’ or a vote of no confidence in the councilors/planning department. The approval of the Cog Road development in Sully has always seemed very suspicious to me and it has crossed my mind that perhaps somewhere there has been a cash incentive to this planning approval. How can the lack of infrastructure support two large housing developments in Sully?

  12. Phil Walters says:

    Am I missing something here? Surely the planning meeting cannot go ahead on the 3rd of November with this accusation outstanding? The article says that members should take this into account when deciding, but any vote in favour of the development will be forever questioned as a result of this scandalous behaviour. As a resident of Dinas Powys who is frequently hemmed in by heavy traffic, any development of additional housing in the Vale has a direct affect on my family and myself and so I have a direct interest in the outcome of the decision.
    The Chair of the Planning Committee should not just absent himself when it is being discussed, but should now actively canvass a postponement of the meeting until the proper authorities have investigated the issue and the guilty brought to justice. It is not only the right thing to do, but also the honourable thing to do.

  13. Frank Evans says:

    If the matter has been referred to the police then they can not proceed or they might find themselves and the process liable to judicial review.

  14. simon says:

    Sadly some people invoked don’t no the meaning of the word

  15. Christopher David says:

    Oh yes putting your toes on twatter is very professional. Theresa May does it all the time as does Carwyn Jones. Slogans! Well “I say Lind-say who are you anyway”. Sweaty palmed councillor in hiding🙂 But Windsay- you appear to be in support of a police investigation into the various planning riggings the? Fair play !

  16. Frank Evans says:

    Don’t get me wrong I have sympathy for her. But posting images of your toe on twitter is just plain barking mad, something joey Essex Ightfield do.
    PS don’t you need to go through building regs for work on HVAC systems…… as they can cause injury.

  17. Paul says:

    The writing is on the wall…

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