POLICE HALT PROBE INTO “FAKE” LETTERS-OF-SUPPORT FOR SULLY SCHEME

The Sully Sports and Social Club is operated by a limited company called Barry Plastics Sports and Leisure Ltd

The Sully Sports and Social Club is operated by a limited company called Barry Plastics Sports and Leisure Ltd

A police investigation into allegedly fake letters of support for the major re-development of the Sully Sports and Social Club, appears to have ended – at least for the time being.

South Wales Police – who were called in by the Vale of Glamorgan Council to investigate the matter – have issued a statement saying  “At this stage South Wales Police is not pursuing any lines of inquiry. However, as with all matters, should further information come to light, the force will reconsider this position.

The inquiry began after the Vale of Glamorgan Council had revealed –  in an internal report – concerns that an estimated 20%  of all the letters sent to the council –  supporting a controversial planning application to develop a huge new housing estate on the grounds of Sully Sports and Social Club –  were probably forgeries.

Council investigators from its internal audit team were concerned that there might have been a coordinated attempt to exaggerate the degree of public support for the contentious project.

What the proposed Sully site would have looked like if planning permission had been granted. The 200 houses would have been built on the left

What the proposed Sully site would have looked like if planning permission had been granted. The 200 houses would have been built on the left

The development proposals –  to build 200 homes on the site –  had 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 planning application proposed concentrating the sports facilities 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. A total of 200 new homes would be built in an adjacent area .

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”  .

Councillors were warned in a report that they should be “aware of all the above when applying weight to the support as conveyed in these letters.“

When the planning application came before the Vale of Glamorgan Council planning committee on  Thursday November  3rd 2016 , the chairman of the Vale Planning Committee Cllr Fred Johnson left the chamber after declaring an interest. [Cllr Johnson is a director of  the Barry Plastics Sports and Leisure Company Ltd ] and his place was taken by planning vice-chair Cllr Margaret Wilkinson.

The vice-chair of the Vale planning Committee Cllr Margaret Wilkinson told couoncillors they must not mention the 20% forged letters mentioned in the internal report because they could prejudice a policy inquiry

The vice-chair of the Vale of Glamorgan Council Planning Committee Cllr Margaret Wilkinson told councillors they must not mention the dubious “letters of support”  revealed in an internal council report because they could prejudice a police inquiry

Cllr Chris Franks (Plaid Cymru Dinas Powys) challenged the legal gagging order imposed by Cllr Wilkinson

Cllr Chris Franks (Plaid Cymru Dinas Powys) challenged the legal gagging order imposed by Cllr Wilkinson

Cllr Margaret Wilkinson then warned councillors  not to mention the “letters of support” because the matter had been “referred by the council to the police”. She said “No discussion will be permitted in relation to this aspect as this could pro-genst us [sic] in any appeal  or anything like that. We could jeopardise – so we are not discussing anything that the police will come back on us”. [sic]

Her ruling was queried by Cllr Chris Franks (Plaid Dinas Powys) who asserted that the matter was not “sub- judice”,  but council officers supported the vice-chair’s ruling and members of the committee then complied with it .

Jo Davies - representing St Modwens had no inhibitions about discussing the forbidden topic of "letters of support"

Jo Davies dissociated the developers – St Modwen PLC – from the potentially not genuine “letters of support”

However, speaking for the proposal was Jo Davies, Senior Director of Planning Consultancy GVA – addressing the planning committee on behalf of the developers, St Modwen PLC. In her comments Ms Davies launched straight into the forbidden subject of the “letters of support”, and made the position of the developers –  St Modwen PLC – clear .

She said Firstly, in relation to the [Vale] officers report regarding the support letters potentially not being genuine, I would like to state that St Modwen does not condone any misrepresentation of public opinion….”

Ms Davies was halted in her tracks by the Vice Chairman  Cllr Wilkinson – who told  her that she should not  mention the letters of support . Ms Davies then went on to ask councillors to consider the application on its “material merits” .

In the event the planning application was refused.

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7 Responses to POLICE HALT PROBE INTO “FAKE” LETTERS-OF-SUPPORT FOR SULLY SCHEME

  1. What a complete load of pathetic rubbish, this stinks to high heaven. A man alleged his signature had been forged on a letter of support for the plans (as did others) and The Police seem to want to side step those facts. Where’s the justice? Our planning authority is in need of a major overhaul and scrutiny. Starting with the removal of party politics from Council Chambers.

  2. Kevin Mahoney says:

    I have also questioned and will be pursuing the matter of letters of support being accepted, added to the total numbers quoted and published online by the planning department which contain just a signature and for example the words Sully football club rather than a current and correct address.

    Surely all letters of objection or support should only be accepted. published and counted if they bear a legitimate name and current address? Otherwise they should end up straight in the bin without being counted towards any total in my view.

  3. Paul says:

    “At this stage South Wales Police is not pursuing any lines of inquiry. However, as with all matters, should further information come to light, the force will reconsider this position.” Oh dear, another red herring. Theres some powerful forces at work, trying to ensure that decisions are made using subterfuge to circumvent the legal course of events. Some people gotta a lot to lose if it fails. It will all come out eventually……………….

    • Mark Foster says:

      This is why we need to Drain the Swamp, as Donald Trump says. Police and Crime Commissioners who represent political parties must be turfed out of office.

  4. I’m not sure how Barry has managed to show that so many letters of support are potentially fraudulent. All their auditors can do is refer to is the Electoral Roll and many people will not register due to its widespread circulation and do not trust the Anonymous Registration procedure.

    Furthermore I am unaware of any requirement to use your home address so it is perfectly valid to use your business address or “care of” your club as in this case.

    Finally there are so many hotheads around these days that the days personal names and addresses are published by local authorities should have long gone.

    • Kevin Mahoney says:

      And of course Martin not registering with the electoral roll is an offence carrying a £1,000 fine so I’m not really sure what your point is in regards to this.

      Not registered at a verifiable address, then no recorded letter of objection or support as far as I’m concerned.

      Otherwise it is obvious that there is no means of checking if the person or persons lodging submissions do in fact exist.

      Using your model then anyone can fill in hundreds of templated forms and letters with no means of knowing whether someone has just sat down and made them up.

      Lets hope no one ever has that idea in order to try and mislead and influence a planning committee as to the popularity or otherwise of an application.

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