Falmouth Wharves secret cash compensation row refuses to sink

Falmouth Wharves secret cash compensation row refuses to sink

Falmouth Wharves secret cash compensation row refuses to sink

First published in News
Last updated

The developer behind a failed bid to build at Falmouth Wharves was handed a compensation payment as Cornwall Council did not advise them of a ‘fundamental objection’ to the plans.

Questions continue to be asked about the “compensation”, at a reported cost of £30,000, plus the time of officers at the authority, alongside a false response to a Freedom of Information request, with a member of a campaign group set up to fight the development calling it “disgusting” and a “cover-up”.

The response to the FOI request said that, “Cornwall Council holds no record of any money being paid to the applicants or their associates in connection to the refusal of application PA/12/04275”, when in fact the money was paid.

Belle Benfield, from Friends of Falmouth Wharf, said: “That Cornwall Council can cover up maladministration with an undercover payment of £30,000 and then lie about it is truly disgusting.

“A sum of money greater than many of our public servants’ salaries in Cornwall has been used as a pay-off with apparently zero disclosure and zero accountability.

“The public has a right to know exactly who handled the pre-application engagement for planning and how?

“In what way exactly was this application handled badly to the tune of £30,000? Which senior council officer has carried out this review and where is the report?”

“Why, when a Freedom of Information request was submitted from the public, were they told that no compensation payment had been made in relation to Falmouth Wharf?

She added: “We demand full transparency and accountability from Cornwall Council.”

Cornwall Council has called the compensation “reasonable” under the circumstances.

A spokesman said: “The Council undertook pre-application work with the applicant prior to the formal application process, but this did not elicit its own fundamental objection to the development proposal.

“In the particular circumstances of this application, given its nature and history, it was reasonable that the council’s in principle objection should have been communicated to the applicant in the pre-application process, and this was relevant to the applicant in deciding whether or not to proceed with an application.

“It was for this reason that the complaint was upheld and a compensation payment commensurate with the sum of the application fee was paid.

“A review is being undertaken to ensure that such a situation is avoided in the future.”

However the explanation, and the previous reason given for the false FOI response, blamed on a communication break-down, has not satisfied everyone.

Mr R Burnie, who made the above FOI request and received the false reply, said: “Because the rumour of payment would not die down, Councillorr Hanna Toms, whose ward covers Falmouth Wharves, probed further and discovered that in fact a compensation payment was made.

“This does not seem to be correct. Following this payment, which represents £2 for every person in Falmouth, I am angry that my council tax is being wasted in this way.

“Is it correct that potential council maladministration is bought off and left undisclosed?

“Why was there no investigation immediately after the payment was deemed to be payable?

“Who was responsible? Where is their public apology and explanation? What were the consequences to them for their actions?

“Any FOI request can be evaded by giving a false reply and then saying the person was not aware of the facts. What actions are being made to improve the council’s process for FOI requests?”

Comments (3)

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7:51am Thu 17 Jul 14

Gill Z Martin says...

There was me thinking compensation was common practice with Cornwall Council, if the planning department made an error. I believe compensation was awarded in Mullion after a public enquiry, which I and many others attended, was found in favour of the applicant. The building project had been pulled to a halt whilst in progress, by Cornwall Council, and was delayed for a considerable time. Planning permission had initially been granted without consideration to an existing footpath. (See Packet archives). So I am now led to believe, the compensation payout here was around the £30,000 mark. I believe it is justified because the applicant was put under considerable inconvenience and expense.
There was me thinking compensation was common practice with Cornwall Council, if the planning department made an error. I believe compensation was awarded in Mullion after a public enquiry, which I and many others attended, was found in favour of the applicant. The building project had been pulled to a halt whilst in progress, by Cornwall Council, and was delayed for a considerable time. Planning permission had initially been granted without consideration to an existing footpath. (See Packet archives). So I am now led to believe, the compensation payout here was around the £30,000 mark. I believe it is justified because the applicant was put under considerable inconvenience and expense. Gill Z Martin
  • Score: 11

9:17am Thu 17 Jul 14

Helston John says...

I heard about that in Mullion, the trouble with Cornwall Council is they're too quick to grant planning permission before being aware of all the facts, and if its backed up by local town or parish councils that don't know what theyre talking about!!! Makes you wonder what encourages them to grant permission in the first place!!! That is also a ridiculous situation that they can falsify FOI request answers about compensation pay outs. I agree if the council screw up why should the person applying for planning permission lose out but we should have council officers that know what they're doing. That's the trouble with no local knowledge. Where's the leader of the council in all this, what's he have to say, and the Chief Executive that is paid top wages to run the council finances.
I heard about that in Mullion, the trouble with Cornwall Council is they're too quick to grant planning permission before being aware of all the facts, and if its backed up by local town or parish councils that don't know what theyre talking about!!! Makes you wonder what encourages them to grant permission in the first place!!! That is also a ridiculous situation that they can falsify FOI request answers about compensation pay outs. I agree if the council screw up why should the person applying for planning permission lose out but we should have council officers that know what they're doing. That's the trouble with no local knowledge. Where's the leader of the council in all this, what's he have to say, and the Chief Executive that is paid top wages to run the council finances. Helston John
  • Score: 12

1:05pm Thu 17 Jul 14

Helston fly on the wall says...

I think there was a lot of petty people in Mullion that argued for arguments sake just because they diverted a footpath by a couple of yards. Whatever happened it was still CC to blame for giving permission in the first place so the man is entitled to claim. Makes you laugh half these people are never on the footpath and the ones that do are quite happy to use the buildings toilet facilities free. I dont live in Mullion but i.go there. If that place had closed and pulled out of Mullion there would be nothing worth tourists going there for. Falmouth planning is just as bad. Get rid of the planning officers i say.
I think there was a lot of petty people in Mullion that argued for arguments sake just because they diverted a footpath by a couple of yards. Whatever happened it was still CC to blame for giving permission in the first place so the man is entitled to claim. Makes you laugh half these people are never on the footpath and the ones that do are quite happy to use the buildings toilet facilities free. I dont live in Mullion but i.go there. If that place had closed and pulled out of Mullion there would be nothing worth tourists going there for. Falmouth planning is just as bad. Get rid of the planning officers i say. Helston fly on the wall
  • Score: 12

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