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Warrington named the worst place in Britain for culture

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So Steve, what is going on with the Cabinet works and water tower?  What exactly happened with the Old Grammar School?  I imagine avoiding questions like this were more the reason you bottled out of going.  Incidentally, if you were able to go and didn't you did a resident out of a ticket for an event which was seriously oversubscribed.

I never signed up. On reflection, if I'd thought the occasion was going to be a mirror of the ridiculous stuff on this forum, I wouldn't have wanted to be there anyway.

 

The grammar school building I don't know about, whether it was realistic to save it and convert it to housing. It wasn't listed. As for the Garnett works, I'm already on record as saying it should all be demolished; there's no viable alternative use (and that rather proves that it's nonsense that councillors don't care about heritage because so far the plans committee has refused consent for demolition of the tower).

 

What I've not pinned down is how much people opposed the tower when it was proposed in 1906 (which seems obvious from the defensive note Mrs Garnett struck when opening it) - complete with all the council meetings about the propriety of the deal that allowed Garnetts to widen Barbauld Street (and - wow, would you believe it? - knocking down some of Warrington's old buildings to do it....)

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I never signed up. On reflection, if I'd thought the occasion was going to be a mirror of the ridiculous stuff on this forum, I wouldn't have wanted to be there anyway.

OUCH :lol: :lol:

 

What I've not pinned down is how much people opposed the tower when it was proposed in 1906 (which seems obvious from the defensive note Mrs Garnett struck when opening it) - complete with all the council meetings about the propriety of the deal that allowed Garnetts to widen Barbauld Street (and - wow, would you believe it? - knocking down some of Warrington's old buildings to do it....)

Oooh now all that sounds really interesting.  Do you have a copy of Mrs Garnett's note Steve as I'd love to know what she said and do you have anymore info re the council meetings of the time and which buildings on Barbauld were knocked down etc.  'Please and thank you' of course.....

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I never signed up. On reflection, if I'd thought the occasion was going to be a mirror of the ridiculous stuff on this forum, I wouldn't have wanted to be there anyway.

 

 

QED.   

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I never signed up. On reflection, if I'd thought the occasion was going to be a mirror of the ridiculous stuff on this forum, I wouldn't have wanted to be there anyway.

 

 

 

A real man of the people.

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I never signed up. On reflection, if I'd thought the occasion was going to be a mirror of the ridiculous stuff on this forum, I wouldn't have wanted to be there anyway.

 

And here's "the really ridiculous stuff on this forum"................. 

Can't win, can we? I was going to go till you all said it would be stuffed with councillors....

 

No mention of it being "stuffed with councillors"  appeared on this forum until after the meeting had taken place!

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and more ridiculous..........................

 

......The grammar school building I don't know about, whether it was realistic to save it and convert it to housing. It wasn't listed. As for the Garnett works, I'm already on record as saying it should all be demolished; there's no viable alternative use (and that rather proves that it's nonsense that councillors don't care about heritage because so far the plans committee has refused consent for demolition of the tower).

 

 

Re The Grammar School...."it wasn't listed"   Why? because none of our councillors CBA? or because they preferred to leave it unlisted so that it could be more easily demolished?

 

"As for the Garnett works. I'm already on record as saying it should all be demolished."  You most certainly are Steve!  in fact you appeared quite active at the time in trying to get both the main building and the Tower raised to the ground. 

 

"it's nonsense that councillors don't care about heritage because so far the plans committee has refused consent for demolition of the tower"    Now, if I remember rightly, The fact that the Tower hasn't been demolished is due to the efforts of  a local champion of Warrington's heritage - without whose efforts I believe a different decision would have been made. Your inclusion of the words "so far...the plans committee has refused consent for demolition of the tower"  are a bit of a give away.....obviously there are hopes/plans that consent may be forthcoming in the future.

 

"there's no viable alternative use"  Now that's a point, (should you have attended the Culture Warrington meeting) which you could have argued out with Sarah Hilton from The Heritage Lottery Fund.  Sarah seemed quite passionate on the current push towards converting old works for present day use, showing us some brilliant examples of what had been done by 'creative' councils. The restoration rather than demolition trend is now powerfully backed - which thankfully will be putting the brakes on WBC'S bulldozers!

 

Let's be honest Steve, none of WBC'S councillors had the b***s to attend that meeting because the public shaming in front of such influential guests would have been too much for them!  

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And now for something completely ridiculous!

 

The problem with the Council inquiry is that - unless there's evidence of complicity that the Ombudsman hadn't unearthed - it was just inquiring into the same stuff as covered by the Ombudsman, and the conclusion was the same. Your post itself gives the salient facts. And you have highlighted the problem: "All of this happening at the behest of the head of planning shortly before his retirement. Most remarkably there was no record of the destruction in memos, emails, notes or meeting minutes." "If it was all a terrible mistake by a 'rogue employee', why was there no record..."

It's not remarkable really - if you know you're acting unlawfully, would you make a record of the fact?

 

An acknowledgment that councillors knew that it certainly wasn't a mistake - but an unlawful act - yet not one of them forced a legal inquiry and all of them are quite happy that those who were compliant and for years covered up this unlawful act are still in the employment of the council!     For ridiculousness that's got to take the biscuit!  

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And now for something completely ridiculous!

 

 

An acknowledgment that councillors knew that it certainly wasn't a mistake - but an unlawful act - yet not one of them forced a legal inquiry and all of them are quite happy that those who were compliant and for years covered up this unlawful act are still in the employment of the council!     For ridiculousness that's got to take the biscuit!  

I may respond to other stuff - and will find the stuff from the opening of the Garnett works - but this is a series of non sequiturs!

 

Who said it was a mistake?  What legal inquiry would be forced - on top of the Ombudsman's inquiry? So far as I know, only two people were involved in destroying records, and both resigned / retired. Mindful of defamation laws, who else knew and "covered it up"? I assume others had found out before it went to the Ombudsman, but would not then have commented before the inquiry.  

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I may respond to other stuff - and will find the stuff from the opening of the Garnett works - but this is a series of non sequiturs!

 

Who said it was a mistake?  What legal inquiry would be forced - on top of the Ombudsman's inquiry? So far as I know, only two people were involved in destroying records, and both resigned / retired. Mindful of defamation laws, who else knew and "covered it up"? I assume others had found out before it went to the Ombudsman, but would not then have commented before the inquiry.  

 

If those 2 people were indeed the only 2 involved in destroying ALL of those records , the Council slipped up.  They must have been the hardest working council employees in the history of the world.  Should have kept hold of them . Absolute Trojans.

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If those 2 people were indeed the only 2 involved in destroying ALL of those records , the Council slipped up.  They must have been the hardest working council employees in the history of the world.  Should have kept hold of them . Absolute Trojans.

 

Actually both inquiries confirmed it was a herculean task requiring a great deal of overtime by a number of people. They weren't just incinerating or shredding records but meticulously ruining them while preserving the illusion the record was complete. As the LGO report says: "The destruction of the Council’s statutory records was an extraordinary and inexcusable act of maladministration. It must have involved a considerable administrative effort and a number of staff." 

 

Are those people still at the council, and if so, why? 

 

Apart from that, there's the fact that the planning team was still offering advice for four years even though it couldn't because the record was useless. This includes offering councillors advice on the planning dispute at the centre of it all. People other than the two referred to by Steve were advising on the dispute even though they couldn't possibly do so. Offering bogus planning advice based on no information would appear to be a sacking offence in its own right. 

 

Then there's the not so small issue of them ignoring police advice about the personal safety of Warrington residents. According to the official reports, the dispute was so severe that it was having a knock on effect for the police's work across the whole of Culcheth yet the planning team just ignored the police. If I employed somebody who took such an attitude towards people, I wouldn't allow them the chance to clear their desks before removing them from the premises.   

 

Steve. None of this is 'ridiculous'. It is factual based entirely on the two inquiries. Have you actually read them?  

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The casual dismissal of such serious actions AGAINST the voters and people of this town are frankly, sickening.  Could someone care less about who they are supposed to represent?  It's like Alan B'Stard but real life.

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The casual dismissal of such serious actions AGAINST the voters and people of this town are frankly, sickening.  Could someone care less about who they are supposed to represent?  It's like Alan B'Stard but real life.

 

But it's not just Steve is it? The whole council went into lockdown over what had happened. I've seen plenty of councillors have a pop at residents, but never council employees, no matter what they do. 

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Actually both inquiries confirmed it was a herculean task requiring a great deal of overtime by a number of people. They weren't just incinerating or shredding records but meticulously ruining them while preserving the illusion the record was complete. As the LGO report says: "The destruction of the Council’s statutory records was an extraordinary and inexcusable act of maladministration. It must have involved a considerable administrative effort and a number of staff." 

 

Are those people still at the council, and if so, why? 

 

Apart from that, there's the fact that the planning team was still offering advice for four years even though it couldn't because the record was useless. This includes offering councillors advice on the planning dispute at the centre of it all. People other than the two referred to by Steve were advising on the dispute even though they couldn't possibly do so. Offering bogus planning advice based on no information would appear to be a sacking offence in its own right. 

 

Then there's the not so small issue of them ignoring police advice about the personal safety of Warrington residents. According to the official reports, the dispute was so severe that it was having a knock on effect for the police's work across the whole of Culcheth yet the planning team just ignored the police. If I employed somebody who took such an attitude towards people, I wouldn't allow them the chance to clear their desks before removing them from the premises.   

 

Steve. None of this is 'ridiculous'. It is factual based entirely on the two inquiries. Have you actually read them?  

 

Unless we're talking about different inquiries, yes. I take it you mean the Ombudsman's report and that of the Independent barrister, but I don't know what you mean by "official reports" about the impact on policing. I think you mean that the planning department took the view that the policing issue was a neighbour dispute and not "a planning issue" - which rather missed the point that the destruction of records meant it was more difficult to know what plans had been agreed, and therefore what planning breaches could be subject to enforcement, exacerbating the problem.

 

Having re-read the independent barrister's report, it seems there was a minute of a planning department meeting about the destruction of records - so while two officers were responsible, the then director might have known at some stage and maybe junior staff were involved in the work (not the decision). It's still a problem that however robust a whistleblowing policy is formed, it's never easy for junior staff to go against a manager's instructions.

 

I think I'll leave the matter there, as there really is nothing to be gained by going over the ground (yet) again, and it's not exactly on-thread. No doubt some will accuse the independent barrister of a whitewash, but I've lifted a couple of his comments. I don't actually share the idea that councillors got "credit" from this affair, but it's certainly not "casual dismissal" of it.

 

"I am equally satisfied that the assiduity and determination of Cllr Axcell and other elected councillors to get to the heart of what went wrong brings credit on them as councillors. The public has been well served by its elected representatives who in authorising this investigation have evinced a clear desire for transparency and accountability."

 

"In addition there is absolutely no evidence of any determined 'cover –up' as suggested by some participants. The questions formulated by the participants and the evidence I have seen and heard leads me to conclude that those responsible have been identified in this report."

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And back to heritage...

 

It was Mr R E Garnett who actually hinted that not everyone appreciated the tower: “Alluding to the tower which surmounted the works, Mr G said he considered it an ornament for the town. Although the building was for purely commercial purposes, they regretted if in its creation they had done anything that was not exactly in accord with their neighbours’ feelings. At the same time he thought they had not been unmindful of the possibilities of beauty”.  Mrs Garnett hoped the time would come, as Kipling nearly said, "when no man would work for money or fame, but all for the joy of work" http://www.online-literature.com/kipling/918/

One of their elderly employees, W C Nicholson, said what a good firm they were to work for.

 

Street Improvement Committee of 26 May 1903 approved Barbauld St widening and CPO of buildings to be demolished. "Corporation undertook to procure that the buildings standing upon a portion of the land 20 feet in width should be removed and that such space or so much thereof as was not then a public passage should be opened out as a public passage within 24 months thereof" (Agreement with Garnett  Nov 7 1903) - Garnett paid for Barbauld St to be widened from 20 feet to 40 feet. There  was talk of taking it through to Sankey St to offer an alternative parallel route to Bridge St - the properties adjacent to Trinity tower were demolished but new ones erected - though there was an abortive plan for the Corporation to acquire Trinity Church - I've not found out to what end. The local government board “do not consider the item of £37 5s, the costs incurred in negotiations (afterwards abandoned) for the acquisition of Trinity Church to be properly chargeable to a loan account".

 

There were plenty of questions from councillors about the widening scheme (why and to whose benefit) and a big argument over the CPO. It makes our current council meetings seem quite civil, tame even.

 

The new Victoria cabinet works (on Barbauld Street) is a 6-storeyed building 133’ long and 30’ wide. Floors range from 12’6” to 9’. Automatic extraction of all refuse from their machines and workmen’s benches direct to the boiler furnace - very sustainable! 7000 gallon tank (which provided a header for the sprinkler system). Power was provided by a gas engine – driving a dynamo for 450 lights.

 

The architect was Edward Eccles (and his partner Woolfall), and the builder was Dolan.

 

Oh, and just for the conspiracy theorists, the original cabinet works in Penketh burned down in 1901.....

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Luckily,the demise of some of Warrington's old buildings has provided Algy & others with the chance to post old photographs. If the buildings were still in place what would fuel our nostalgia ?

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Unless we're talking about different inquiries, yes. I take it you mean the Ombudsman's report and that of the Independent barrister, but I don't know what you mean by "official reports" about the impact on policing. I think you mean that the planning department took the view that the policing issue was a neighbour dispute and not "a planning issue" - which rather missed the point that the destruction of records meant it was more difficult to know what plans had been agreed, and therefore what planning breaches could be subject to enforcement, exacerbating the problem.

 

Having re-read the independent barrister's report, it seems there was a minute of a planning department meeting about the destruction of records - so while two officers were responsible, the then director might have known at some stage and maybe junior staff were involved in the work (not the decision). It's still a problem that however robust a whistleblowing policy is formed, it's never easy for junior staff to go against a manager's instructions.

 

I think I'll leave the matter there, as there really is nothing to be gained by going over the ground (yet) again, and it's not exactly on-thread. No doubt some will accuse the independent barrister of a whitewash, but I've lifted a couple of his comments. I don't actually share the idea that councillors got "credit" from this affair, but it's certainly not "casual dismissal" of it.

 

"I am equally satisfied that the assiduity and determination of Cllr Axcell and other elected councillors to get to the heart of what went wrong brings credit on them as councillors. The public has been well served by its elected representatives who in authorising this investigation have evinced a clear desire for transparency and accountability."

 

"In addition there is absolutely no evidence of any determined 'cover –up' as suggested by some participants. The questions formulated by the participants and the evidence I have seen and heard leads me to conclude that those responsible have been identified in this report."

 

The evidence of a cover up is there in a number of ways, especially the fact they covered it all up for four years. :) As ever, you've also tried to lay this at the door of junior employees. There were other senior managers who were aware of the destruction, weren't there? So, if there was no cover up, why didn't we know about it all four years earlier and why was it only dragged out into the open after a resident decided to bring in an outside agency? That conclusion is farcical. 

 

And as for the council's commitment to transparency and accountability. We know all about that, don't we? 

 

Which all brings us back to the issue of the town's heritage. There can't be any trust in the planning team to take account of the town's heritage or hold developers to account. They simply don't do that under any circumstances. You had the chance to change that after the planning scandal but instead appointed a man to lead it who was happy to allow factories to be built without planning permission and offices plonked over the top of ancient Roman ruins in Chester. You can't expect him to restore trust in the planning function or maintain the heritage of an industrial town like Warrington. We know what the future of Warrington is under the current regime. It is retail parks, flats and housing estates created by developers who know they can do what they like and nobody will lift a finger.

 

Even the new Bridge Street development is essentially a retail park because that is all you know what to do. I know you've slipped the new council offices in amongst it all as part of the overall budget but ultimately it will be a cinema alongside Frankie & Benny's, Pizza Hut and Nando's. If you'd landed those same facilities in Riverside Retail Park instead of Bridge Street, nobody would have raised an eyebrow. 

 

Under these circumstances the council has no right to bleat that the town is labelled as so culturally bereft. You've disregarded the character and heritage of the place for too long and failed to maintain oversight over the actions of council employees and developers and now you're reaping what you've sown.      

 

I'm really pleased that the new Civic Society is raising itself  up to redress the balance. As we've learned over the past few years, it takes grassroots efforts by the people of the town to hold the council and developers to account and maintain the heritage of the town. You, as an organisation, have abdicated that responsibility.  

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If those 2 people were indeed the only 2 involved in destroying ALL of those records , the Council slipped up.  They must have been the hardest working council employees in the history of the world.  Should have kept hold of them . Absolute Trojans.

Standard operating practice in local government these days, off down the golden rat hole and away, taking every misdeed with them.

Everybody else concerned rocks up to the office on Monday morning purged of all sins...easy peasy.

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...

Even the new Bridge Street development is essentially a retail park because that is all you know what to do. I know you've slipped the new council offices in amongst it all as part of the overall budget but ultimately it will be a cinema alongside Frankie & Benny's, Pizza Hut and Nando's. If you'd landed those same facilities in Riverside Retail Park instead of Bridge Street, nobody would have raised an eyebrow. 

 

....

Sorry, I can't be bothered trying to rebut the same points over and over, but how can a development whose main buildings are offices, cinema and restaurants, possibly be described as a "retail park"? The only retail will be in the building which will house the market until Boots is converted as the new market. You can't complain Bridge Street is dead then object when the Council tries to do something about it (including saving the Boots facade). Well, yes you can object, but you need to have a proper reason for the moaning.

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Steve

 

You haven't rebutted many of the points at all. If there was no cover up, why was there a documented four year cover up? That would seem to be the main one that your cognitive dissonance won't allow you to address.

 

Cinema plus restaurants are routine elements on retail parks across the UK, or haven't you been to the Halton Centre or Cheshire Oaks? And the offices are the council's. I know Bridge Street needs work. I just think creating something that, with the exception of the council offices, would fit in just as well on the other side of Bridgefoot is spectacularly unimaginative. But then again the council believes that it can't do anything with a large, attractive heritage building in the town centre other than let it rot,so we shouldn't expect them to possibly look at the example of other places that have taken derelict industrial sites and transformed them with imaginative and culturally appropriate developments. Just look at the Middleport Pottery building in Stoke which has won an award from RIBA this year. How many architectural and conservation awards do you expect Frankie & Benny's on Bridge Street to win?

 

Here you go. An example of a council with some imagination and due respect for its heritage. It's award winning, regenerative and retains a sense of history and place. WBC would have let this rot into the canal and thrown up some crappy flats.   https://www.architecture.com/StirlingPrize/Awards2015/NationalWinners/MiddleportPottery.aspx

 

Meanwhile, you'll continue to see redevelopment as a multiplex and chain restaurants. How much time do you think the RSA will spend pondering the cultural and heritage significance of that?

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I may respond to other stuff - and will find the stuff from the opening of the Garnett works - but this is a series of non sequiturs!

 

Who said it was a mistake?  What legal inquiry would be forced - on top of the Ombudsman's inquiry? So far as I know, only two people were involved in destroying records, and both resigned / retired. Mindful of defamation laws, who else knew and "covered it up"? I assume others had found out before it went to the Ombudsman, but would not then have commented before the inquiry.  

 

"....but this is a series of non sequiturs!"   - no it was a series of direct responses to the ridiculous content of one of your previous posts, (and here, just as ridiculous, are your pretentions at literary skills which you clearly don't possess). 

 

"Who said it was a mistake?"  - the barrister of the council's 'independent review' called it a "muddle headed and misguided attempt to save the council money" 

 

"What legal inquiry would be forced - on top of the Ombudsman's inquiry?"  - The Ombudsman's inquiry was brought about by complaint's from Culcheth residents re a planning dispute - not WBC.

It was the Ombudsman's report which led to WBC'S 'independent inquiry'.

WBC knew about the destruction of records earlier than the Culcheth residents, so why didn't they investigate and act immediately?

The planning officer, John Groves, who was the officer who knew about the destruction of records and who knew it was illegal but failed to inform Councillors, was still employed by the council at this stage - surely a suspension pending investigation would have been appropriate?

Personally, I think a police enquiry should have been called for. Is not the wanton destruction of other people's property classed as an act of  'criminal damage?  

 

"So far as I know, only two people were involved in destroying records, and both resigned / retired"  - at the time of posting this your knowledge didn't in fact stretch very far, however you have since read up somewhat and know that more people were involved. Note, John Groves, who failed to inform anyone of the destruction of records not only remained in employment but was promoted and did not leave the council's employment until circa 2012. 

 

"Mindful of defamation laws"...a rather silly inclusion!

 

"Who else knew and covered it up?"  Your more recently acquired knowledge has enabled you to answer that yourself.

 

"I assume others had found out before it went to the Ombudsman, but would not then have commented before the enquiry"  - due to your more recently acquired knowledge you will now realise your assumptions were wrong!

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Here you go. An example of a council with some imagination and due respect for its heritage. It's award winning, regenerative and retains a sense of history and place. WBC would have let this rot into the canal and thrown up some crappy flats.   https://www.architecture.com/StirlingPrize/Awards2015/NationalWinners/MiddleportPottery.aspx

Did you not know I lived in Stoke before coming to Warrington? 

 

It's nice for the Middleport Pottery, but not for what's left of Trentham Hall

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trentham_Estate#/media/File:Trentham_Gardens_2015_26.jpg

 

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2286587/Trentham-Hall-Final-remains-historic-hall-face-ruin-35m-restoration-price-tag.html

 

http://www.stokesentinel.co.uk/historic-Stoke-Trent-building-8216-risk-8217/story-24534392-detail/story.html

 

From the Historic England website I think Warrington has only 3 listed buildings "at risk" (plus Winwick church which is probably not at risk now having had nearly £2m spent on it). One is a barn in Culcheth, one's the transporter bridge, and one is the Drill Hall at the town hall - I'll find out what that needs doing - plus some unlisted buildings within conservation areas (Garnett works for one). The idea that Stoke is better than Warrington at saving its heritage would go down a riot in the Potteries.

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"....but this is a series of non sequiturs!"   - no it was a series of direct responses to the ridiculous content of one of your previous posts, (and here, just as ridiculous, are your pretentions at literary skills which you clearly don't possess).

Now that stings. Did you want the Latin plural? As I've made a goodly sum over the years from published articles (Guardian, Times, Times Ed, Independent, church press....).- and got Grade 1 English Language O-level - I'm quite happy with my literary skills. Oh, and that's not how you spell pretensions.

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......So far as I know, only two people were involved in destroying records, and both resigned / retired. Mindful of defamation laws, who else knew and "covered it up"? I assume others had found out before it went to the Ombudsman, but would not then have commented before the inquiry.

Not just the two people who retired/resigned as John Groves, a senior planner at the time, said he was aware of the decision to destroy the documents and had his reservations. But he decided to remain silent.

 

That always puzzled me, as it probably puzzled anyone else who had ever had dealings with him, as he was very apt at speaking his mind and also standing his ground.  He certainly wasn't the sort of man who would be 'scared' of saying what he thought and surely as a senior planner he would have been well aware of the councils statutory duty to retain the documents .

 

Nothing they can do about it now though as they are gone for good.  Their stupidity has probably caused problems for a lot of people who have had to, or who may need to, look back at past applications and information that was submitted and approved.   It's certainly caused problems for us grrrr !!!

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