Web ExclusiveIt was can’t-tell-the-truth bingo on BBC Radio Bristol this morning, as HorseWorld’s MD, the ever incompetent Mark ‘Not That One’ Owen, was interviewed on the Breakfast Show by Steve Le Fevre.

HorseWorld M.D. Mark Owen: management skills of the back end of a panto horse

HorseWorld M.D. Mark Owen: management skills of the back end of a panto horse

Pinocchiowen had taken to the airwaves to lament his regime’s FAILURE at yesterday’s Bath & North East Somerset Council planning meeting to secure permission to raze the horse charity’s land in Whitchurch in order that a bunch of houses that local people couldn’t afford could be built there.

And despite some direct questions from Le Fevre, the troubled charity boss just didn’t seem able to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth…

Here’s the link to the show on BBC iPlayer – it’s at 1h 52min; or here’s a link to just the interview.

And in case we’ve not made it easy enough for you with that, here’s the full transcript:

Steve Le Fevre: Now let’s talk more about HorseWorld. It’s one of the area’s best known animal charities, it’s been told it can’t redevelop on its base in green belt land on the edge of the city, it wants to build a new visitors’ centre at its complex in Whitchurch, and build more than a hundred homes on its land to help pay for the project.

And Mark Owen is the Managing Director of HorseWorld, and joins us just now… Hello Mark…

Mark Owen: Morning Steve, how are you?

Steve Le Fevre: So this turn down, a major blow for your finances?

Mark Owen: It’s certainly very disappointing, you know I wake up this morning slightly shell-shocked by what’s happened there. We had some extremely exciting, well thought-through, meticulously planned application for a much more exciting and sustainable future, which had the support of the case officer, had the support of BANES’ own transport experts, it had the support of an independent business consultant, which verified the business plan.

So we went into this meeting with all the technicalities ticked, and all of the important information supported by BANES. Yet they voted against it.

Steve Le Fevre: There was a lot of opposition though Mark, as well, wasn’t there?

Mark Owen: There’s more support than opposition on the actual BANES website. Yes, Save Our Green Spaces have an opposition about building in green belt in general, but actually if you look at the facts, there is more support for what we are doing than against…

Steve Le Fevre: Well, you have opposition from Whitchurch Parish Council, Compton Dando Parish Council, Whitchurch Village Action Group, Bristol City Council…

Mark Owen: No, no, no… There is no objection from Whitchurch Parish Council. They’ve actually accepted the very special conditions.

Steve Le Fevre: Must be our mistake, then, we had an objection from them. My apologies if that’s not the case. Let me talk to – stay with us, and we’ll talk to Dr Mary Walsh from Whitchurch Village Action Group. Hello Mary…

Mary Walsh: Hello!

Steve Le Fevre: What are you against necessarily – it sounded like a great tourist attraction for the area…

Mary Walsh: I have a very bad line – can you repeat?

Steve Le Fevre: What are your objections to this?

Mary Walsh: My only objections, and Mr Owen will know, all along, everything between us has been…

Steve Le Fevre: Well just tell us!

Mary Walsh: We want to save our green spaces. Whitchurch depends on our green belt, as a village. We have very little left – there’s only 13% green belt in the country, and unfortunately BANES have 3/4 of that 13%.

Steve Le Fevre: Alright, and that is the point, Mark, really trying to build on the green belt and then put the houses on your land – just the topography that’s the problem?

Mark Owen: Well there’s a certain irony about this because with this BANES have recently – and I mean as recent as the 19th November – have promoted HorseWorld’s land as the most likely area of land within the Whitchurch village to be…

Steve Le Fevre: But what about the land you’re hoping to go to with your visitor centre and your arena and so forth?

Mark Owen: Yes, we’ve got two parts of our site, the most contentious part is where the houses are being built, and that’s where 95% of the discussion last night was on, and on that part, this is where BANES have earmarked as the most likely area to be brought out from the green belt, and there is a Core Strategy initiative to bring two hundred houses to the Whitchurch village.

A certain irony where they support our land as the most likely for housing.

Steve Le Fevre: Right, well we’ve, we can’t go on too long on this, but just on the finances themselves, just a text that’s come in from J in Bristol, ‘please ask HorseWorld how much charity cash they’ve blown on a naïve, ill-judged plan, a betrayal of donors and legacies…’ Is that a fair point?

Mark Owen: Of course there’s a concern about, you know, going into applications, planning applications, it’s an expensive thing. But what I would like to say is, what if we don’t do, you know, the sustainable future of a sixty year old charity will not be there unless take these plans. The current centre is unviable, it’s land-locked, it’s too small, and it needs investment.

Steve Le Fevre: Alright, we’ll have to leave it there, Mark – thank you very much indeed. Mark Owen, Managing Director of HorseWorld, Mary Walsh you heard as well from Whitchurch Village Action Group.

Just in case you were starting to believe Mr Owen’s fanciful claims, here it is in black and white, from the BANES ‘reports pack’ (entitled ‘20112013 1400 Development Control Committee.pdf’) accompanying yesterday’s Development Control Committee meeting:

To date 38 individual objections letters and 46 letters of support have been received in respect of application 13/02164/OUT for the proposed residential development. 567 identical objection letters have been submitted from local residents through Whitchurch Village Action Group. 8 objections letters and 64 letters of support have been received in respect of application 13/02180/FUL for the proposed Visitors Centre application. 2 Objection letters were received in respect of Listed Building application 13/02121/LBA.

(The same, identical summary of consultations/representations appeared in last month’s reports pack as well, then labelled as  ‘23102013 1400 Development Control Committee.pdf’.)

Allow your super soarway BRISTOLIAN guide you through the VERY TRICKY SUMS which Owen clearly has trouble with…

  • Objections: 38 + 567 + 8 + 2 = 615
  • In support: 46 + 64 = 110

(And as we have previously noted, those 110 notes of support actually break down into 108 notes from 72 people.)

For the record, Steve, when you said “you have opposition from Whitchurch Parish Council” you were correct in that Whitchurch PC had recorded official objections to the plans in both the above mentioned reports packs. The full text:

WHITCHURCH PARISH COUNCIL – OBJECT for the following reasons:-

1. A lack of confirmation from the Inspector regarding B&NES Council Core Strategy housing numbers for Whitchurch Village.

2. Whitchurch Parish Council believes that the protection of the existing Green Belt is of paramount importance in order that the Village protects its traditions, culture and sense of community which has been built and retained over many years. The majority of the land in these applications is in the Green Belt.

3. The Plan for traffic is flawed. In the Traffic Assessment 4.10 it states that ‘the proposed development is unlikely to have any impact on the existing traffic flows or the operation of the narrowest sections of Sleep Lane’. We believe the projection of traffic is inadequate and that Sleep Lane will be greatly affected by the increase in traffic from the developments together with the junction with Woollard Lane, Staunton Lane and the A37. Therefore given the current constraints with regards to the layout of Sleep Lane, any increased demand to use this route as a result of development is unacceptable.

4. Whilst we are sympathetic to HorseWorlds ‘Special Circumstances’ we do not believe that they outweigh the potential harm to the Green Belt as explained in Section 9 of the NPPF and the fact that the developments will have a detrimental effect on the safety and operation of the public highways in the area.


In view of the recent meeting between Horseworld, BANES & Whitchurch Parish Council we continue to have reservations about the inevitable increased traffic flows notably the two-way system in Sleep Lane and the potential bottlenecks created at the junction of Woollard Lane/Sleep Lane and Woollard Lane/A37.

We wish to record our continuing stance that the existing Green Belt should not be developed. However given the lack of clarity surrounding the number of houses Whitchurch Village is expected to take on, BANES Core Strategy, and the developing scenario with other housing developments we feel that we should record our thoughts as follows.

In the event that BANES Core Strategy is ratified by the Planning Inspector at a level of 200, we would not object to the Horseword application of 125 houses subject to the following conditions:

1) Strict implementation of the traffic controls proposed by Horseworld and agreed by BANES Transport/Highways.
2) Support for the revised traffic proposals by BANES
3) Absolute and irrevocable refusal of any other housing development that would exceed the 200 or lower figure agreed between BANES and Planning Inspector.
4) We acknowledge the special circumstances put forward by Horseworld.

Claiming that very measured statement from Whitchurch as outright support shows that Owen is not just wild for the old pork pies, but apparently SELF-DELUSIONAL as well!

Even the Bristol Post has seen through his wishful thinking and corrected its latest story to more accurately reflect the balance of public opinion over the HorseWorld plans after The BRISTOLIAN politely drew the attention of the journalist assigned – amusingly a crime reporter – to the actual recorded numbers of 615 against and 110 for.

So Mark: seek treatment. Not just for your sake, but for the charity you’re running into the ground.


  1. Jean McMahon

    The Evening Post are again upping the profile of Horseworld with a story of horse neglect in Broughton in the Vale of Glamorgan. Surely these horses should be treated in their own county not being brought to Whitchurch, thereby needing extra land and visitor centre. Not everyone loves horses especially at the expense of our green belt.

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