Instances of Council obstruction of request for access to Lot 68 Holsworthy.

                                                            TedTrainer.

30.10.2015

One would assume that Councils are concerned to assist constituents and help to solve their problems.  At first the Liverpool Council did assist, but within weeks it began to refuse and block, and has maintained this attitude for almost ten years. We have no idea why as the options we have proposed involve no cost to the Council. The determination of Council officers to prevent the granting of access and has led them to resorted to strategies that are quite unacceptable, including use invalid claims and arguments, ignoring input from us, use of totally false information and assumptions, and in some cases making grossly false representations of our proposals.

The following list of instances is in chronological order, not order of importance. The more disturbing instances are in bold. (All items 1 – 20 refer to matters that are now irrelevant because they relate to seeking permission to cross Lot 6, and in 2014 it became clear that no permission is required; see item 21 below.)

1.    In 2005 I emailed the General Manager about the problem for the first time.  When I phoned I had not finished my first sentence before he said that the issue is of no concern to the Council and we should seek easements over neighbouring blocks. In other words right from the start the Council’s officers showed no interest in assisting us or exploring possible solutions.

2.    At a meeting with the General Manager some time later he said “…we cannot get the approvals”…that is, from fire protection and environmental authorities.  Many months later I found out that it is not up to the Council to give approval for fire truck access, or to get it from the RFS.  The procedure is for applicants to hire private consultancies to assess a path and forward the report to the Council.  In a later letter dated 2nd March. 2009 the General Manager made it clear that Council officers had decided that the path could not meet fire access conditions (although he said they had spoken to DECC officers.)   We hired Controlline Consulting and sent their report to the General Manager in August 2009. There was no response.  In the 2013 response to the Ombudsman the Council was still giving fire access problems as a reason preventing the granting of access. There were two problems, which we do not see as preventing approval. The first involving the need to surface the path with gravel, is capable of solution. The second involves the existence of low vegetation (c. 30 cm high) on the outer 50 cm of the 6m path, which we would not wish to clear but which does not constitute a major problem.  Repeated efforts to discuss these issues have been ignored.

3.     Similarly, on several occasions, including in the letter replying to the Ombudsman dated 25th, 2013 the General Manager in effect claimed that the environmental sensitivity of the area was a reason preventing approval.  This has been repeated a number of times, including in the Sept.2013 Agenda Papers.  It is clearly a flimsy and absurd pretext, because it has not been claimed or shown that our use of the path would have any noticeable environmental impact.  I phoned the Council’s environmental officer, Mr. Lal, on 24th May, 2009 and followed up with an email 17th June, 2009, asking him for detail on why environmental issues were seen to be a problem, and asked him to approach DECC on the matter.  There was no response.  On16th July 2009 I received a reply to my inquiry from Mr. R. Giddins of the Department of Environment, saying that the Department had not received any communication or request for advice on this matter from the Liverpool Council. In April of 2013 I asked the acting General Manager, and the Environmental Officer if they had advice from environmental authorities that access would impose unacceptable environmental damage.   Neither responded.  In May I asked the General Manager more than once if Council had external advice to this effect, without response.  If this claim is to be taken seriously it should be accompanied by a report from environmental consultants.  Again all we have is the convenient judgement by the Council’s officers that potential environmental impact would be unacceptable.

4.    In an email Council officers said that if access was granted the road would have to be established as a public road and that would mean it would have to be surfaced.  These claims are utterly false. The Council Administrator confirmed this in 2005, and so has Ms S. Hartley from DLG in a phone conversation.

5.     The Council’s letter to the Ombudsman dated 25th March, 2013, states that we “…have been previously advised that access over Lot 6 DP 803038 for numerous reasons is not possible.”  The only reasons mentioned in any letter from the Council have been to do with access to a private land owner, environmental sensitivity, and RFS guidelines, all of which we have challenged a number of times without response. (E.g., emails 20th Oct. 2009)

6.    In a letter from the General Manager dated 3rd March 2005 it was again said that the road would have to be a public road, involving construction and thus cost. (This is also stated in an email from John Milicic, 5.7.2005.) We have stressed in letters to the Council that no work needs to be done on the path, apart from occasional maintenance which we would be happy to carry out.  The path we have used to the South for about sixty years has been maintained in good condition by my fmily. Ms. S. Hartley (then Operations Officer, Legal Dept. from the Dept. of Local Government said (11th Nov., 2009) there would be no need to seal the road. When she visited the site on 24th August, 2005 the Council Administrator Ms Gabrielle Kibble confirmed that there would be no need to seal it.  Yet in the Council’s reply to the Ombudsman, 25th March, 2013, reference is made to “… what the requirements would be from the Rural Fire Service for the construction of a road and what impacts the construction of the road would have on Lot 6.”

7.    A letter from the General Manager dated 2nd March 2007 gave as the reason for rejection “…Council advised that due to the environmental significance of the site, and the minimum access requirements for the Rural Fire Service, Council could not further progress your request for access over Council’s adjoining land.”  I wrote to the Council requesting copies of documents from these authorities.  No reply was received.

8.      As the Ombudsman points out in his letter to Council March, 2013, if the Council wishes to argue that permission for access is not legally possible because the land is classified as Community, then it could be reclassified to the original Operational status.  The fact that this option has been steadfastly ignored since 2005 is further evidence of the Council officers’ determination not to assist us or to explore ways of solving the problem. For instance as the Ombudsman points out in his 13th March 2013 letter to the Council, the Agenda Papers did not inform Councillors that it had been advised in 2005 that access could be granted under the Community classification, and they did not point out that if that was problematic then access could be granted under the Operational classification (nor did they note that the Council’s intent in 2005 was to establish an access.) 

9.    Council claims that a number of important documents now cannot be found or do not exist.  The original advice given by the Council’s legal committee in 2005 concluding that access can be granted now cannot be found.  It would have been very important to see the reasoning in that advice, and to examine whether it is incorrect as the Council has since claimed.  The Ombudsman notes that Council’s reference of the case to Marsden Law in 2012 does not seem to be recorded in the register of legal advice, which we understand is a breach of the procedural rules.  It would have been extremely important to have public access to that brief and advice received to determine whether the account of the situation given to Marsden Law was correct.  (The strong belief that it was not is dealt with below.)

10. The Ombudsman’s letter to Council points out that “…if the land was not classified as Community land on 19th Dec. 2005 an access licence could have been provided to Mr. Trainer.” Again the point is that Council officers made no attempt to point this out to Councillors when they were rescinding the original  28th Nov. 2005 approval of access in 2012.

11. In 2012 Council officers moved to rescind the original 2005 approval, at the 23 July meeting. The account of the situation given to Councillors in the Agenda Papers did not represent the situation adequately and was thus seriously misleading.  The Ombudsman’s letter to Councillors in 2013 expressed concern about this failure to properly inform them. It points out that the Council’s officers did not explain to Councillors that the Nov 19th 2005 motion derived from the Council’s intention to enable access.  Councillors should have been made aware of this intention, and thus of the need to look for other options if the Community classification thwarted the intention.  The Agenda Papers containing the account on which Councillors voted at that July, 2012 meeting do not refer to these points.  They merely re-state the claim that access cannot be granted. 

Nor was it pointed out that legal advice received in 2005 found that permission to access could be given under either Community or Operational classification. 

The Ombudsman’s letter points out that the statement of the situation in the Agenda Papers contains no reference to the fact that passing the rescission motion would have devastating consequences for my family.

The Council officers have frequently stated that their legal advice from Marsden Law is that approval for access cannot be given.  The attachments to the Agenda Papers for the 29th May 2013 Council meeting make it clear that the brief given to Marsden Law failed to inform them about a crucial fact and thereby guaranteed a negative response. Marsden Law’s detailed response makes no reference to the key point enabling access under Community classification, i.e., the fact that considerable community benefit would result if my family had access (to our educational activities for instance) and under Section 46 of the Local Government Act this factor enables approval for access to an individual landowner. Before and since this date Council officers have often repeated that it is not legally possible for access to be given across Community land for an individual land owner and all efforts to get them to respond to the detailed case I forwarded on several occasions or to discuss this claim have failed.

The letter from Marsden Law discussed the possibility of Operational classification, without dismissing it,  but in their report to the Council meeting in 2012 Council officers made no reference to this.  This aligns with their consistent failure to consider or mention that solution.

Above all it was not pointed out to Councillors that the Council’s 2005 intention could have been enabled by reclassifying Lot 6 as Operational.

12.  The Ombudsman has said that his involvement arises in part from his concern re the proper informing of councillors about the situation.  Yet his letter to the General Manager requesting a report to Councillors for the 29th May meeting was apparently not given to Councillors. (It is not in or mentioned in the Agenda Papers or Attachments for the meeting.)  Some of the points in it were not brought to the attention of Councillors.  One Councillor obtained the Ombudsman’s letter and was annoyed that its content had not been communicated to all Councillors. The most important point not dealt with was again the possibility of Operational classification, and the Ombudsman’s suggestion that this be taken up.  Councillors were allowed to go to the meeting without this most crucial point from the Ombudsman having been mentioned.

13. The most disturbing instance of unacceptable treatment involves the map of the proposed access route given on p. 129 of the Agenda Papers for the 29th May 2013 Council meeting.  This showed the proposed path involving the bulldozing of a 6 metre wide road across some 700 metres of high value native bushland in wilderness condition and zoned E2, and then the construction of a causeway some 400 metres right through the middle of the wetland which is on the Register of the National Estate. No proposal anything like that would ever be approved.  It is nothing like the proposal we have sought via many letters and maps sent to Council since 2005  What we have sought is approval to use …

the path that has existed for at least 80 years, visible on aerial     photos.

running to the north of the wetland, touching no part of it,

requiring no works (confirmed by the 2005 Administrator and the Dept. of Local Govt.), apart from light gravel surfacing for RFS conditions,

and involving no cost, loss or damage to the Liverpool Council.

                        Copy of the map from the Agenda Papers, p. 129.

 Has that map been used to get negative advice from agencies such as Marsden Law?  It is difficult to imagine any other explanations for this enormous error other than either a deliberate attempt to damn the request by grossly misconstruing it to involve extreme damage and costs, or the result of an unbelievable level of incompetence and irresponsibility.

     On 24th May 2013, six days before the Council meeting, I emailed the Council General Manager’s Governance officer and informed him of these errors.  I received no explanation or apology and Councillors received no correction before the meeting, and neither has been received since.  Councilors were allowed to go into that meeting believing we were proposing a path that was obviously totally unacceptable.

14.  The Agenda Papers for the 29th May meeting contained another serious error.  It is stated that my family has asked Council to carry out the construction work on the path and pay for it.  We have never done this; we have stressed several times that no significant work is needed on the path. On more than one occasion, such as 24th Sept. 2013, I told Councillors we were prepared to pay for any surfacing needed.

15.  In several lengthy letters I have asked the General Manager to itemise the difficulties the Council sees in our request (e.g., email 22 July, 2009), or to responded to the detailed counter-arguments I have forwarded, in order to enable discussion of possible solutions.  No response has ever been received, let alone a list detailing problems.  A letter stating that no further correspondence would be entered into was received, 9th Sept., 2009.

16. In June 2013 we found out that that it was possible for the path to be reclassified as Operational leaving the rest of Lot 6 as Community land and thus avoiding concerns about reduced security from future development if it was all reclassified as Operational.  This option was confirmed by two of the Council’s senior planning staff, by a Local Government lawyer, and by Ms. Sue Hartley, Senior Assessment Officer within the Department of Local Government.  Ms Hartley has personally carried out two such reclassifications of paths across Community Land.  Why has this possibility not been mentioned by any Council officer at any point in time over the past seven and a half years? 

15.  Twice in June-July 2013 I wrote to the Property officer and to the General Manager saying we had recently become aware of this solution.   I asked for the reclassification of the path alone to be recommended in the Agenda Papers for the July 2013 meeting, and if necessary for discussion with me of any problems involved.  No response was received.

16.  The meeting to decide the matter was deferred four times, over five months between May and 30th October, on the grounds that further issues were being investigated.  I wrote twice asking for information on these matters, saying that it would not be fair to us if we found about them only a few days before the meeting to decide the case.  No response was received.

17. The Report and recommendation for the September 2013 Council meeting was highly unsatisfactory.  It added nothing to the claims previously made several times by Council officers, essentially repeating statements to do with environmental sensitivity, RFS guidelines, and legal inability to grant access to an individual land owner.

     Despite the Ombudsman’s concern that the Councillors had not been properly informed re the 2012 recision decision, this Report failed to bring to their attention the very same matters that the Ombudsman had pointed out were omitted in 2013, notably the Council’s previous intention to assist us, and especially the existence of the Operational classification as a solution. In addition the Report failed to mention the possibility of reclassifying the path alone as Operational, regarded by many as the ideal solution, which I had asked Council officers to discuss.  Unless they were highly incompetent they would have known all along that this option was open, but throughout almost eight years they had not mentioned it.

     Unbelievably the report was accompanied by the very same totally erroneous map (above) that had been included in the May Agenda papers, (showing the requested path involving the bulldozing of c. 700 metres of bushland and building a causeway some 350 metres through the wetland.).  I immediately wrote to the General Manager and Property Officer telling them this.  I received no response and the mistake was not corrected before Councillors went into the meeting.

    The report to the meeting contained two additional errors which I had corrected a number of times previously.  One was the statement that granting us access would cause “enormous environmental damage".  The other was the statement that we had asked the Council to do the required work on the path and to pay for it. I have told Council officers several times that no work on the path is required, there would be no environmental impact at all, and that we have never asked Council to meet costs.

18. On the afternoon of the Sept. 2013 meeting Councillor Harle phoned me to say that he was in favour of our request being granted and would vote for us to have access over Lot 6.  He said Council officers had agreed to support a new recommendation, which he read to me.  I was very happy with its apparent intention which was to enable our access which Councillor Harle had been in favour of throughout, but I was not happy with the motion’s imprecise wording which did not clearly state an agreement to grant access.

The suggested motion was that Council:

1. “Authorise the CEO or his delegate to negotiate with the owner of Lot 68 a possible resolution to the access matter.”

2. “Delegate to the CEO or his delegate the authority to take all necessary action required to give effect to any negotiated access resolution that may be agreed between the parties.”

3. “Notes that any negotiated outcome be reported by the CEO to councillors via memo and without the requirement of a further council report.”

At the next meeting Councillors voted unanimously for this motion.

     A few days later a Council officer phoned to arrange a meeting.  When Sandra and I met with three Council officers we were stunned by being presented with three options.  The first was to pursue an easement over neighbouring blocks via the 28K provisions of the Real Property Act.  The second was for us to ask the Crown Lands department to have our legal but unformed access road through the upper wetland formed, and the third was for us to request that the road be moved some 500 metres to the East so that it would not run through the wetland. All three are totally unworkable but that is not the point. We were told in effect to go away and solve the problem ourselves and that Council will not be involved.

     We then waited a few seconds but it was clear that these options were the only ones that were going to be presented.  So we asked what about the proposal to give us access across the Council’s Lot 6 by reclassifying the path as Operational, which had been the focal option for months before this meeting.  We were flatly told that this is not acceptable.   I asked why and was told that it would require grading to meet RFS standards and would therefore be too costly and cause too much damage.  I outlined yet again the reasons I have given many times why these claims are incorrect but this made no difference.

     The brazen and ham-fisted nature of this encounter defies belief.  The meeting was supposed to be to work out possible arrangements for our access over Lot 6, e.g., maintenance of the path, insurance, monitoring and costs.  Council officers had totally ignored the intention of the Councillors as told to me by councillor Harle and had hijacked the meeting to an entirely different agenda, i.e., to instructing us that access across Lot 6 was not going to be granted and telling us to go away and solve the problem ourselves. 

     Next morning I phoned Councillor Harle.  He was very surprised and annoyed.  He confirmed that the Councillors had wanted us to be given access over Lot 6 and would have thought that they had voted for this and had organised the meeting only to deal with detail.  (Note that point 3 in the recommendation to the meeting above assumes no need to report back to Council again.)

On 14th Nov. I wrote to the General Manager asking for an explanation, and asking that the Councillors’ intention be carried out at the next meeting.  No response was received.

     Another meeting took place and two letters were received from the Council.  However this took almost one year.  The situation was confused but at least discussion of possible options had come back onto the agenda.

19.  The late 2014 disruption.

In Dec. 2014 we found out that in mid 2014 several senior officers within the Council had been replaced, including those centrally involved in our case. On 23rd December 2014 we received letters from Mr Morgan and Mr White stating that on 28th of August 2014 they had written advising that the Council would not meet our access request and that it would not consider the issue further.  Mr Morgan told us that the Council Meeting on 24Th Sept 2014 had passed a rejection motion, and that as three months had elapsed it was now not possible to rescind that motion.

     On all previous occasions when our issue was to be considered at Council we had been informed of the coming event and date and given the officer’s recommendations in the Agenda Papers, both by email and by post.  On this occasion we received no information and thus didn’t know of the meeting until three months later on 23rd Dec 2014.

This action terminated the ongoing negotiations that had been underway for several months with Ms Napoletano and Mr Williams (both left the Council in mid 2014.) It unilaterally and without consultation terminated the process that had been established by a Council meeting, and that had been heading in a direction that we felt was quite promising, exploring costs and options. (Mrs Napoletano had sent us a detailed breakdown of costs associated with reclassifying the path as Operational land, and I was exploring independent surveying costs.) No report from those discussions had been sent back to Councillors or to a Council meeting and neither the Agenda Papers nor the minutes indicate that the contradiction of the previously established process was discussed.

In addition the Agenda Papers for the 24th Sept meeting show that the main reason given for the motion to stop dealing with the issue was not valid.  It was that the Council was not prepared to pay the high cost involved. This ignored the fact that on more than one previous occasion my family had proposed that we meet some or all of the costs involved, and that the ongoing negotiations with Ms Napoletano and Mr. Williams were in the process of considering costs.  As noted above, for this purpose Ms Napoletano had tabled a fairly detailed estimate of costs for us to consider, in her email dated 27th June 2014. The recommendation to terminate the issue for reasons of cost to the Council was therefore unjustified.

These points also make it clear that the Agenda Papers for the 24th Sept. 2014 meeting seriously misled Councillors about the situation. They made it seem that solutions were impossible when not only had this not been established but good progress towards a solution was being made.

20.            Two relatively minor issues.

The Confidential Report given to the Councillors for the 24 Sept, 2014 meeting contained a map that was significantly incorrect, despite the efforts I had made to get them to use the correct map two years befire, including sending them a correct map. (See point 13 above re Agenda Papers CFO 10, Fig.1.) This map was not as bad as that discussed at point 13 above but it indicated a need to bulldoze about 200 metres of bushland, which is totally incorrect and again would immediately damn the apparent proposal.

Secondly, on p. 6 of the Confidential Report the problem of access to Lot 68 is referred to as “…essentially a neighbourhood dispute.”  This is extremely annoying as it totally incorrect. I wrote to the Council repeating again, having done so many times previously, that the problem has been created by the recognition of the value of the Heritage Listed wetland, through which our formal access to Lot 68 runs.  This would not have been seen as a problem when the land was subdivided probably over a hundred years ago.  Now no agency would approve of that road being formed and my family has never wished to see it formed.  The problem therefore set for the Council was in what way might an alternative be provided, one that would protect the integrity of the wetland while enabling a just outcome for my family.  The fact that recently the owner of Lot 72 has impeded our informal access across that block has nothing whatsoever to do with the basic issue, and it is utterly and inexcusably wrong to define the problem as being a neighbourhood dispute. To do so construes the issue as my family asking Council to assist us with a problem that is in no way its problem and one which it has no responsibility for or obligation to help with.  I wrote to the Council making these points and asking that Council officers dealing with the case be informed. No reply was received.

21.        The radical change of issue.

The letters from Mr. Morgan and Mr. White, (23rd Dec. 2014) and statements by Ms Napoletano at the meeting in Jan 2014, contained information which completely changed the whole issue.  These communications made it perfectly clear that we had the right to cross Lot 6, simply because it is public land. This means that for almost ten years we have been seeking that right when we need not have done so, and being refused that right when the Council was in no position to do so.  This also means that several officers within Council would have known all along that they could not refuse that right, but no effort was made to inform us of this fact. (Within this document reference is made to six occasions when we were told permission could not be granted.)

22. Request for a key to enter through the boom gate on Sirius Rd.

This radical change in the nature of the issue meant that the entire access problem would be solved if we could be given a key to the boom gate where the path across Lot 6 meets Sirius Rd.

     I asked more than once to be given a key to the lock.  These requests were refused, with very few words. For instance I sent an email, on 15th Feb. 2015, explaining the unsatisfactory nature of the reasons previously given, and in the reply from Mr. Morgan dated 9th April, 2015, the reasons given were again that   “…,Council cannot do so, owing to potential liability risks and the need to treat all ratepayers equally.” (This is the full/complete statement.) It was also stated that this would be the final communication on the issue.

In October 2015 I sent a more detailed email arguing against each of the four reasons that had been given in the combined previous emails from Council. No reply was received.  The points made in my email are reproduced here in order to show how very unsatisfactory the reasons given by the Council have been.

1.  Liability.

The only claim made by Council officers that deserves serious consideration is that a key cannot be given because of “…potential liability risks”; those three words are the full argument given. They mean nothing unless it is explained what the risks are, and we cannot imagine a satisfactory answer to this question.

How could my family having a key lead to a liability claim against the Council? There are no houses or infrastructures on Lot 6 to be damaged. The 45 ha lot is constantly open to public access and we can and do cross it regularly. Why do Council officers think that if we had a key to the boom gate this would increase Council’s existing public liability exposure at all, let alone to a level that would outweigh the benefit?

The only conceivable possibility is that we might forget to lock the gate and a vehicle could enter and dump rubbish, but this would be easily dealt with by setting conditions whereby we agree to clean up, or pay for any damage caused by us having a key. We have often told Council that we are willing to enter formal agreements to indemnify Council against any damage we cause to Lot 6.

The Council’s Parks section gives many keys to people to enter Council lands, for example to get to Scout halls and playing fields. In many of these cases the traffic through gates would be thousands of times greater than my family would generate.  How is it that the liability problem for these cases can be resolved but it can’t be our case?

In 2006 after Council had approved access for us it asked us to meet its conditions to cover the public liability issue.  We did this and the issue was settled. (See letters in Council records to and from Mr. M. Milisec within Planning, March, 2006.) That liability task was a bigger one than simply approving a key, because the (mistaken) assumption was that the cover needed to be for permission to cross Lot 6.  Now my family does not need to deal with that as we and everybody else have the right to cross Lot 6 without taking out our own liability cover.

.

Council officers have not recognised the liability risk the Council will be creating for itself if it refuses to give us a key.  If emergency vehicles such as from police, fire or ambulance services need to get to our Lot 68 but are blocked and a serious event results Council would not want a court to hear that it refused a number of requests for a key that would have enabled rapid entry, or travel out to a casualty ward.  I am an older person living alone and might suddenly need medical attention. Snake bite is an ever-present possibility here. Similarly there are frequent bushfires across this area and Council might be liable for property damage if its action hindered vehicle entry, or if it prevented vehicles from escaping a fire.

My later question to Councillors was, do you think you could explain what the public liability risks are, what might damage Council interests, if we had a key? None of them responded to this question.

2.  “Equity.”

Letters from Mr Morgan and Mr White dated 23rd Dec. 2014 say “... the need to treat all ratepayers equally” means that we cannot be given a key.  However no one else in Liverpool has any need for or interest in having a key. If we had a key no one would claim to have been disadvantaged or unfairly treated and Council would not be swamped by others demanding an equal right.  If anyone did make such a request Council could consider whether he too had good reason to be given a key.

Councils frequently grant rights, permissions and licenses to some parties and not to others.

Even if this was a significant concern, the letter proceeds as if this consideration trumps all the others, when it should be weighed against the substantial reasons for my family having a key.  Who would say that the benefit to my family that would follow if we had a key is outweighed by the fact that we would have a privilege not extended to others in the region?

b.  Preventing “…anti-social behaviour”.

The above letters say that it is necessary to keep the gate locked in order to "…prevent anti-social behaviour". It is difficult to imagine what that might be other than rubbish dumping.  There are obviously ways of dealing with that without refusing to give my family a key, such as a formal agreement whereby we undertake to clean up if we have enabled dumping.

Note again that Lot 6 is not enclosed and is open to walkers, cyclists and trail bike riders 24 hours every day. We are not aware that any “anti-social behaviour” occurs.  How could it be that if we were given a key “anti-social behaviour” would then become a serious problem?

      c.  Impossible resource demands.

Mr White’s letter gives as a reason,

“Council does not have the resources to undertake the patrolling of the Reserve that would be necessary to prevent continuing anti-social behaviour if the access gate was removed. Furthermore, a removal of the gate would necessitate a reconstruction of access routes through the Reserve in order to meet RMS standards and RFS requirements. Given the length of the routes, and the existence of EEC communities and wetlands, this is likely to be a highly costly exercise and no budget is available for such works at this time.”

This is not just completely irrelevant, it is disturbing that such an absurd argument would be resorted to. The claim assumes that the gate would have to be removed, which is wrong, has never been suggested, and has nothing to do with our request for a key. The statement fails to consider the simple and sensible solution of ensuring that we keep the gate locked. 

Secondly, it defies comprehension why the path that is in good condition and requires no work would suddenly need extensive and costly work if we had a key.

The reference to a threat to the environmental value of the 45 ha area is equally irrelevant and ridiculous; it is impossible to imagine how this would be endangered if we had a key.

If the Council had concerns about effects of our use on the path then again agreements for maintenance and monitoring could be drawn up. (We have the right to use it and do use it now to get to the gate for deliveries etc., so why would our wear on it become unacceptable if we could go through the gate.)

         d. Setting a precedent.

A letter dated 4th Sept., 2015 states that providing a key would “…potentially … set a precedent.”  Firstly, what precedent is envisage? Council provides many parties with keys to gates. Surely what matters is whether the case for the request outweighs the case against. If it does and the request is refused that is saying the Council is not going to do the right thing if it might set a precedent.

Finally, refusal to give us a key logically contradicts what is said in the two letters mentioned above. For instance one letter says,

 “council raises no objection to your continued use of and access through the Reserve in accordance with the Plan of Management, …”

At the September 2014 meeting Council directed …

 “... staff to take no action in impeding access to Lot 6, DP 803038 by the owner of Lot 68…

If the Council has no objection to us accessing through the land, and is not going to impede this, why is it preventing us from doing so by refusing to provide us with a key?

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We believe it would be obvious to an independent observer that the reasons given by Council officers for refusal to give my family a key do not constitute a respectable let alone a convincing justification, and that they are the result of an effort to cobble together some kind of case to support a prejudiced position.

Mr Morgan did reply to my email putting these arguments to him but said that he would not comment on them.

23.  In October 2015 I wrote to all Councillors including the above arguments against the reasons given by Council officers, and requested that they vote in favour of giving my family a key. Not one replied. The subsequent phone calls I managed to make (at considerable difficulty; only two requests to call back were responded to) revealed that Councillors were hostile to my request and had simply accepted the Council officers’ claim that the request could not be met.  When I tried to ask what they thought the convincing reasons were I received no explanation.

Our feeling is that perhaps only two to three Councillors would vote in our favour, so we have made no effort to have the request brought to a meeting.

(I must note that Councillor Peter Harle has been extremely supportive and helpful over many years, and has made a considerable effort to persuade Council officers to change their minds.)

To summarise.

Š      We believe any independent observer would agree that this has clearly been a record of consistent determination on the part of Council officers to refuse to assist my family which has been grossly unreasonable and unjustified, and based on “reasons” which have been patently flimsy and unconvincing pretexts, and at times absurd and inexcusably false. The only one that might warrant serious consideration is to do with pubic liability, and it is a vacuous claim unless it is explained what risks Council would be exposed to.

(The above account lists 13 occasions where a detailed email to Council officers was ignored, and one where an email to the 11 Councillors was ignored by all of them.)