One year on and still no response to a major complaint to BCP council…

Bournemouth looking towards Poole. Photo by Paul Wood  Wikimedia CommonsEdit this at Structured Data on Commons

One year ago today, I submitted a major complaint to Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole council (BCP). The full case touches on potential negligence, misconduct, corruption & perhaps even breach of law. I’ve chased many times, & met with senior BCP officers. But a year later, BCP has failed to respond at all.

This defies reason. BCP’s published commitment is to acknowledge any complaint within 3 days, confirm a contact ASAP, and investigate within 20 days. But 365 days in, I’m not even on first base. I don’t even know if anyone has picked up the complaint yet. The question is: why?

As you’ll see, I’ve done all I can to get BCP to investigate the complaint. The fact that evidence has been ignored for so long is alarming. And this is much bigger than one case. So, on its first anniversary, I’m going to publicise the issues as widely as I can.

Starting here.

It begins with a 2021 article on Jesmond Wood, a protected woodland & biodiversity haven. The owner wants to convert it to housing. A BCP councillor approaches Highcliffe Parish Council with an offer to direct £300K to local projects IF the plan is supported:

As a local campaigner, I came by some additional information about this scandal. So in March 2021, I wrote to two senior BCP officers. Let’s call them Officer A and Officer B. I set out what I knew, and at B’s suggestion I followed up with further info.

I got no reply.

That application was refused, but there was talk of another. During the previous review period, the owner had cleared the woodland floor using construction vehicles. So in late 2021 I wrote to BCP Planning, warning this destruction was likely to be repeated.

I got no reply.

I also asked BCP Planning why it was refusing to recognise the key protective policy for the woodland, ENV15. This despite the policy being relied on as the ‘last line of defence’ by other eco agencies and by the previous Christchurch council.

My enquiry was dismissed.

Early in 2022, I learnt that BCP was blocking the Parish Council’s attempt to safeguard Jesmond Wood in its Neighbourhood Plan. And in BCP’s Jan 22 Local Plan consultation, Jesmond Wood was removed from the map of ‘ecological networks’. These didn’t feel like coincidences.

With the next Jesmond planning application imminent, I wrote again to Officers A & B, again raising concerns about potential destruction in the woodland. I also drew attention to illegal felling on the site, which is protected by a blanket TPO.

I got no reply.

A year ago, on 20th May 2022, I made a formal complaint. It was received by BCP’s online system as no. CCC-014910. It was a neutral premise: “The Council has failed to properly investigate… a matter of clear concern”. This included a THIRD warning of ecological destruction.

In June 2022 the owner sent demolition vehicles into the wood and razed the undergrowth to the ground. The damage was immense, and widely reported. I wrote to Officers A and B, and an officer C, asking for a meeting to discuss the issues.

I got no reply.

Receipts from a freedom of information request (FOI) revealed that my warnings of damage to the woodland had been completely ignored. This rather proved the point of my complaint. That June email to Officers A, B and C included clear reference to these failings, and to the complaint.

I got no reply.

After chasing several times, I submitted a second complaint to BCP, for failing to respond to the first complaint. This was logged on 30th Nov 2022 as no. CCC-017567.

I got no reply.

Meanwhile, another bombshell.

FOI requests revealed something else. Back in May 22, a BCP councillor had called-in the application. Neither they nor Planning had revealed this until confronted by another councillor. The stated reason for call-in was to see the application approved.

I found something else: evidence implying a prominent figure in BCP had breached the FOI Act by concealing information.

I made a third complaint, noting that I could provide more evidence to support this case.

But BCP didn’t ask for evidence. Instead it dismissed the case.

At speed.

In Dec 22, the next Jesmond application was refused. The report finally accepted policy ENV15 as a basis for refusal. It came after a year of writing to Planning to challenge their stance. This supported another part of the complaint: BCP was wrong to reject ENV15 in 20-21.

In Jan 23, I chased up the complaints again. Finally Officer B agreed to a call.

I re-sent the complaints in full. B assured me that these would be dealt with. I was even given the name and contact of the person receiving it: a ‘complaints manager’ (Officer D).

I waited.

I wrote to D to introduce myself. I got no reply. But then D’s name was reported in a council paper. Guess what? D is not a ‘complaints manager’. Not at all.

So in March 2023, I wrote to B and D again, to ask what was going on with my complaints.

I got no reply.

During 2023 I made contact several more times, and even secured a meeting with another officer. And this month I wrote to A, B and C yet again, to ask for a response.

I got no reply.

It strikes me that BCP is incapable of replying to this complaint.

The question is: why?

Last year I asked the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) for help. But they refused. LGO tell me they can only get involved after a formal response. That’s a big flaw in their system. It’s no use to the public if a council refuses to respond to a complaint. For a year.

The end of the outgoing regime may end their culture of secrecy & misdirection. I hope the new BCP group will confront this legacy. But the Jesmond case is a huge red flag. That officers still avoid investigating it, is incredible.

I have questions.

It’s time for answers.

This article first appeared as a Twitter thread.