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Ex-Pembrokeshire County Councillor Paul Dowson ‘brought authority into disrepute’

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A DECISON has been made by the Standards Committee of Pembrokeshire County Council over allegations that a former County Councillor, Paul Dowson was racist. Dowson was voted out at the recent local authority elections.

After a number of hours of deliberations, members of the council’s standards committee finally ruled that Dowson had breached the code of conduct by bringing his office or the local authority “into disrepute” with what could be considered racist social media post.

The committee had previously determined that they would hold the hearing into whether Paul Dowson had breached the council code of conduct in public, said chairman Corinna Kershaw, but additional information in recent days led to further discussion with members.

Mr Dowson had requested the introduction of the additional information and said he would not take part in a private meeting, but the committee decided that it would hold the entire hearing in private session as it was likely that exempt information would be disclosed.

Mrs Kershaw said that there were two main factors disputed in relation to the alleged breach in June 2020 – whether Mr Dowson was acting in his capacity as a councillor when he made public comments about the Black Lives Matter movement, and if he was or should have been aware that some or all of the post “was likely to be considered racist.”

The breach related to conduct that could be reasonably considered  to be bringing the office of councillor or county council into disrepute.

An investigation and report had been carried out by the Public Services Ombudsman, with a representative present at the hearing, however this, along with a council summary report and other evidence was not included in the public agenda.

The committee went into private session at around 11.45am and returned after 4pm on Thursday to state that it had been determined after consideration of “all the evidence and submissions in this matter” that there had been a breach of the code of conduct.

Mrs Kershaw said that the committee was of the view he had been acting or appeared to be acting in his capacity of councillor and was aware that some or all of the Facebook post was likely to be considered racist.

It was also stated that sections of the code relating to showing respect and consideration for others were also breached.

As he is no longer on the council the “maximum sanction” of censure was imposed but Mrs Kershaw added the committee wished to put on record that if he had been re-elected it would have been “highly likely that suspension for a period would have been a serious consideration.”

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‘Unlawful’ bungalow plans accused council ‘did everything by the book’

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A COMMUNITY COUNCIL, accused of unlawful actions over its discussion of a planning application, “did everything by the book,” a planning committee heard.

An application, by Teresa Bowen, to demolish and replace an old bungalow at Ringstone, Broad Haven, was conditionally approved at Wednesday’s, February 1, Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Development Management Committee, having previously been recommended for approval.

She sought permission “to provide a proper home for my family,” adding: “I believe it will both enhance the locality and have no detrimental impact.”

The Havens Community Council previously supported the application, but claims of an unlawful consultation were made by an objector.

A report for national park planners stated: “An objector has suggested that the Havens Community Council response was out of time with no formal extension of time being granted before expiry of the statutory 21-day consultation time limit.

“He further suggests that the Havens Community Council meeting was not transparent or objective and suggests that the consultation response is accordingly unlawful.”

At the meeting, Havens Community Council Clerk Gareth Harvard shared a lengthy chronology of the community council’s discussions and correspondence over the application, pointing out that equal opportunities were given to all interested parties.

He finished by saying: “In conclusion, based upon the information made available to it, The Havens Community Council strongly contends that it has diligently fulfilled its obligations as a statutory consultee with regard to this application, and any failures in the planning process subsequently found to apply fall outside of the scope of this community council.”

No legal challenge has been taken against the decision of the council, the meeting heard, adding that officers do not accept the objector’s suggestions that the consultation response from council should not be taken into account.

The application was supported by local resident Dr Mary O’Reigan, speaking on behalf of fellow neighbours: “We feel there will be some short-term disturbance, but we think it is worthwhile; we value our neighbour very much. Within our little hamlet there is a great deal of support.”

Committee member, and local county councillor, Peter Morgan, who seconded a move to approve the application, said of the community council’s handling of the application: “Everything was done properly and above board, and by the book.”

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Crime

Eight bungling police officers ‘raided’ home of autistic child ‘by mistake’

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THE FATHER of an autistic child has told of his horror as police officers smashed down his front door to execute a search warrant.
But it soon became apparent that as many as eight bungling officers had carried out the raid near Cardigan on the wrong address.
Michael Williams, 32, has taken to social media to share his experience, which he says has left his non-verbal son, 7, having nightmares.
Michael explained that when police smashed their way into the property they shouted for the father and his special-needs son to ‘Get down on the floor’.
“It was a frightening experience, seeing the door come in – and to be forced onto the floor without an understanding of what was going on,” said Michael.

SOCIAL MEDIA

Michael posted onto Facebook about the incident, receiving hundreds of shares. He said: “Where [can I] start with this mess – at 9am last Saturday (Jan 21) the police broke through my flat door with a warrant for a drugs search which in-fact was the wrong address and wrong person.
“You’ve effectively broke into my house with no warrant for the wrong person and address!
“My son was next to me on the sofa when this happened- anyone that knows me, or my son knows he is autistic and non-verbal. He is now Petrified of the police, he now has nightmares, the set back this is going to be for him is massive, we can’t ask him if he’s okay, we can’t explain to him how the force we pay to ‘protect’ us forced their way through our door with no valid reason or warrant (again the address on the warrant was across the road)
“For any child [this would have been] frightening for a child that’s nonverbal and autistic well it doesn’t bear thinking about!
Michael added: “Not once did the police check the Council Tax records or electoral board which would have shown mickey as a vulnerable child due to how complex needs.
“The police have offered no satisfactory reason to why they didn’t check things properly!
“I have seen the warrant the warrant address is in fact for across the road from me!
“I still have a door that won’t shut properly I probably have a child now that will be scared to come back because of the damage our fine ‘police force’ have done.
“How the hell the police forced entry in to a house (around 8 officers) with no warrant – there is more which I’m not ready to disclose until the ‘investigation’ is over, then again the police will always look after the police and that was evident today when I was told ‘the police done nothing wrong’
“Dyfed Powys police should hang their heads in shame! It’s disgusting what’s happened!
Michael finished his Facebook post by saying: “I would love this to be shared so no other child is made to jump out of their skin in their own home!
“The explanation you’re offering to this blunder isn’t good enough!”

I DON’T FEEL SAFE AT HOME

Michael now says has handed his notice to his landlord, stating that he no longer feels safe in his home and that it’s not a safe environment for his children.

Michael added that all he wants is answers. He would like to be able to sit down and speak to the officers responsible, instead of via email.

POLICE RESPONSE

Dyfed-Powys Police responded to the incident with a brief official statement. They said: “We can confirm that the Professional Standards Department has received a complaint, and this is currently in the process of being assessed and formally recorded under the Police Reform Act 2002.

“The Professional Standards Department will be in contact with the complainant to explain how the complaint will be handled, and the matter will be allocated to a suitable complaint handler for review.

“The outcome will be communicated with the complainant who will have a right to review if he is dissatisfied with the outcome”.

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Business

Planning approved for change of use in Tenby’s ‘drinking quarter’

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THE RESTROSPECTIVE planning applications made by Mike Evans were granted approval by national park planners.

A former national park member who changed of use of historic buildings without permission was unrepentant about making a retrospective application.

Since last July, former stables in Tenby’s Sergeant’s Lane have been rented out to be used as a seating area for the nearby Harbwr Brewery.

A planning application seeking retrospective change of use of the Grade II listed buildings and previously derelict and overgrown stable yard for the serving of food and drink, made by by Harbwr Brewery owner Mike Evans, was approved by Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority planners on Wednesday, 1 February.

The application – recommended for conditional approval – was brought to the National Park’s Development Management Committee as Mr Evans was a recent member of the national park authority.

Also approved were works to the listed building roof.

At the meeting, members expressed concern about the retrospective native of the application, made by a former member of the planning committee.

Ted Lewis of nearby Rock Terrace raised concerns about potential waste and officers’ support for the retrospective application, claiming Mr Evans had shown “a complete failure” to abide by conditions imposed on a previous application.

He also referred to recent references to Sergeant Lane as being Tenby’s “drinking quarter,” adding: “I was horrified at that, if it becomes a ‘drinking quarter’ it will drive out local residents.”

Former county councillor Mr Evans, unrepentant at the retrospective nature of the application, said the area had been transformed from one of “pigeons, rats and dog [mess],” to one with five thriving businesses.

He said the development was providing “good, exciting and well-paid jobs,” adding: “At the core of everything we do is sustainability, we do nothing to harm the area and community we live in. At our own expense we clean and maintain the lane regularly.”

He described retrospective planning applications were “a legitimate route for planning,” adding it was the usage of the buildings that “has evolved,” rather than structural changes.

Tenby Civic Society has previously raised concerns about potential noise nuisance to nearby residential properties.

Until the late 1990s, many of the buildings on Sergeants Lane were used as warehousing and stores for Hermann Thomas and Co Plumbers.

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