Tag Archives: BANES


Web ExclusiveJust days after putting 28 staff on notice of redundancy, troubled charity HorseWorld’s managing director Mark ‘Not That One’ Owen and chairman of trustees John L Newman are obviously feeling the same extreme levels of worry and fear as those whose jobs are actually on the line. How else could one explain their movements these past couple of weeks?

You’ll recall, by way of background, that serial bungler Owen managed to lose millions of pounds of the charity’s money since joining just a few years ago. He then spectacularly failed to get his flawed planning application – backed by three trustees with professional property development interests – past clued-up councillors.

So this January kicked off with them handing notice to dozens of their low-paid staff that they probably won’t have a job in a few weeks’ time. It’s to the credit of the hard-working animal lovers who actually keep HorseWorld going that despite all the stress and uncertainty caused by their idiot bosses they have simply been getting on with caring for horses and donkeys.

Meanwhile, their esteemed MD? Gone ski-ing. Yes, an expensive week-long skiing holiday for Mister-80k-Per-Annum-Plus-Shiny-28k-Audi Mark Pinnochiowen.

Rome, burning? Pass me my fiddle!

And the Chairman of Trustees? Surely he’s around to field the flak and take the concerns of staff to heart? Well, er, no actually. He’s said to be sunning it in Barbados, returning in a few weeks’ time.

The need for these hard-pressed holidaymakers to pack their cases and ship out suddenly might just explain the careless and hurried approach to their redundancy announcement two weeks ago.

Having ordered the affected 28 in a meeting that they were not to go public, or involve unions, and to keep the whole thing in-house, word naturally leaked out and found itself in your humble ‘Smiter’.

Cue a boardroom panic, a quick purchase of Employment Law For Dummies, and lo and behold, the next day a press release was issued (which even the Evening Bristol Post was highly sceptical of), claiming the charity is consulting on redundancies with ALL staff (except the MD, presumably).

So, to recap: first scare the life out of 28 people. Then extend the fear to roughly sixty. While they quake and tremble in the wake of your redundancy process fuck-ups, what do you do? Leave the country. Simples.

Can it be long before these muppets start offering expensive consultancy packages on crisis management?


HorseWorld boss Mark Owen: full of pony

HorseWorld boss Mark Owen: full of pony

Web ExclusiveTrustees of troubled charity HorseWorld meet tomorrow (Wednesday 18 December) to consider what they do next after the SPECTACULAR FAILURE of MD Mark Owen to persuade local councillors to give him the green light to fill Whitchurch’s green belt with lots of unaffordable posh houses.

Faced with a CRISIS of Becher’s Brook proportions, the trustees have important decisions to make that will decide the futures of many staff and still more animals.

Under Owen’s watch in the last five years HorseWorld has shipped millions of pounds – but frittered away hundreds of thousands on consultants working on his ill-judged master plan. This came crashing to the ground at the first fence last month when BANES councillors showed that they could think for themselves and act in the best interests of local people who didn’t want posh houses and a big arena, thank you very much, by voting against Owen’s plans.

And when they voted against his harebrained scheme to knock down the visitor’s centre and sell off prime land to profiteering property developers, they didn’t do it by half-measures.

Comments from councillors considering the application included:

…10% affordable housing was not good enough…

…information about visitor figures was not clear…

…not convinced the proposal would solve HorseWorld’s problems…

…10% affordable housing was not enough, it should be 35%…

…not convinced there were very special circumstances outweighing the need to protect the Green Belt…

…information about transport issues was incomplete…

…worried about transport issues…

…HorseWorld, with 100,000 visitors a year, should already be successful…

…not convinced about the commercial viability of HorseWorld…

…concerned about the impact of a new housing development on the local primary school…

So that would be a resounding ‘no’, it would seem.

Since then Owen has FURIOUSLY STOMPED around the local press fuming that his failure to get the nod for the plan means the charity will close. ‘It’s unsustainable,’ he whines. Well, insiders retort, it’s certainly unsustainable to retain this INCOMPETENT TWAT on £80,000 per year (plus 28k company car).

Owen’s HorseWorld business model has long been seen to be redundant, and now he should be too.

So is this the moment when trustees finally ditch the hapless Owen so he can spend more time playing guitar in his pub covers band?

At the meeting Owen is expected to plead with his trustee bosses for CLEMENCY. His latest ruse will be to tell them they can overturn the BANES decision on appeal, and he has already started a petition. A bit late in the day for petitions, but you can expect some (non-local) people – including staff – to sign it. ‘Think of my mortgage… err, I mean, the horses!’

Alongside this petition strategy is the key part of his new vision – the immediate closure of the existing visitor centre, home to 24 horses, donkeys and ponies, and employer of several low-paid staff. Retain the rest of the charity land as a small scale sanctuary for animals, he’ll urge, but scale down the operation. ‘Oh, and keep me as MD, pretty please!’

There is of course another option for trustees. It’s not one which Owen will recommend to them, but maybe like the BANES councillors did, THEY’LL PROVE THEY HAVE MINDS OF THEIR OWN…

  1. Flog the Audi;
  2. Sack this expensive failure and his overpaid management cronies; and
  3. Move to a different model that puts long-suffering animals and hard working charity staff first.

It’s an option that would allow HorseWorld to continue working, but in creative co-operation with the local community, not against it.

Nobody in their right mind would believe councillors who overwhelmingly rejected an application by 10 to 2 votes would just overturn the decision on appeal. But are HorseWorld trustees in their right mind?

The acid test will come at this week’s meeting…

PS: For over a year Owen has been telling anyone who’ll listen that if HorseWorld failed to get planning permission he would RESIGN. He hasn’t.

What Mark Owen tells the Charity Commission - not quite what he tells BANES...

What Mark Owen tells the Charity Commission – not quite what he tells BANES…

I say 62, you say 43, let's call the whole thing off!

I say 62, you say 43, let’s call the whole thing off!

But then he’s been telling everyone he employees over sixty staff (most notably going with the figure 62, as shown on the HorseWorld website here and here, and in submissions to BANES Council – see page 92), when official figures submitted the Charity Commission claim the true figure is 43.

Pinocchiowen indeed.


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.


Some interesting developments today in the HorseWorld ‘let us knock down our visitor centre so we can sell the land to a property developer who will build a bunch of executive homes and then build a visitor centre’ story… Against all expectations, Bath & North East Somerset Council TURNED DOWN the charity’s planning application by ten councillors to two in a shock decision that left incompetent boss Mark ‘Not That One’ Owen with a very long face indeed.

Here’s our local reporter with analysis:

The word on the street here is that when HorseWorld first started its plan a couple of years ago to do this development, the Managing Director Mark Owen looked at the balance sheets that were showing the massive losses under his leadership and then calculated how to achieve a break-even or profit figure, maintaining the same levels of spending in all areas but increasing income from the tourism side of things. He apparently discovered that if his visitor centre could get 135,000 people per year then it would have higher income from admission fees, merchandise etc, and so would break even.

So the theory is he then began putting together a case which started from this 135,000 figure and worked backwards, to try to show that a new visitor centre would get those numbers through the doors, instead of proving the attraction of the new centre would lead to those numbers. Most companies would tend to do their business plans the other way round of course!

This botched way of doing things might persuade trustees who have a vested interest, innumerate finance directors, and planning officers whose hands were apparently forced by the Liberal Democrat councillors who run the BANES council cabinet and have visited HorseWorld; but it was unlikely to persuade the councillors who had to justify a decision. And it grossly underestimated the intelligence of Stockwood and Whitchurch people!

This back to front approach also showed with the way HorseWorld panicked when they had to pay £1 million Section 106 money and so tried to balance the books by reducing the affordable housing allocation.

Key to the rejection of the vague plans put forward by HorseWorld were the low numbers of affordable homes that would be built, the sketchy reasoning behind the 35% overnight jump in visitors anticipated, failure to adequately argue why there was an exceptional reason to build on green belt land, and the increased traffic. Owen was left spluttering that HorseWorld would now have to close down. (Well, only if he continues to manage it the way he has up till now.)

And finally, there were behind the scenes all sorts of shady deals going on – in Bristol as well as in Bath – to try and push the application through: more on this in the next edition of The BRISTOLIAN paper – on the streets from the end of next week. In the meantime, check out Stockwood Pete’s blog about today’s decision.


Web Exclusive…And so we return to the ongoing saga of attempts by INCOMPETENT CHARITY BOSSES at HorseWorld in Whitchurch to persuade Bath & North East Somerset Council to let them knock down their visitor centre, sell the land to property developers, and then build a new visitor centre.

Apparently that will suddenly make them all financial geniuses and not the same dunderheads who created a massive black hole out of the generous donations and bequests from animal lovers keen to see abused donkeys, horses and other equine beasts rehomed.

Last month you may recall that all three planning applications were withdrawn at the eleventh hour – could The BRISTOLIAN‘s detailed reporting on how HorseWorld bosses made staff write letters of support to the council have had anything to do with the committee members’ irritation?

Well, this afternoon (Wednesday 20 November) is crunch time: all three apps are back in the room. Indications are that the BANES committee might be minded to slip it through – especially if they read the awesome puff piece in the Bristol Post earlier this month by its Business Editor Michael Ribbeck, which all but suggested the fall of western civilisation if this new development doesn’t go ahead.

Most amusingly of all was the elaborate plucking of ‘facts’ out of thin air, conjuring with made-up statistics, and general air of the reporter having HUFFED TOO MUCH GLUE whilst glumly waiting for the next round of redundancies.

A little taste:

The planning application also includes plans for 90 homes which would be built on green belt land if the application is approved by Bath and North East Somerset Council.

Err, no, Michael – the application is for “up to 118 dwellings”. Despite the norm for an affordable element of 35%, HorseWorld is trying to get away with an allocation of just 10% at the site. That means potentially more than 100 RICH MEN’S HOMES plonked in the middle of Whitchurch instead of meeting local young people’s need for housing they can actually afford.

And the extra kick in the balls? HorseWorld wants to have subsidised on-site staff accommodation counting towards that meagre 10%!

Let’s keep going…

There have been eight objections to the scheme on the grounds of the traffic it will create and the loss of green belt land. However, the council has received almost double the number of letters in support of the redevelopment.

As we pointed out in great detail, there have been 615 letters or emails objecting to the proposals, with 108 (from 72 individuals or businesses) in support. The majority of supporters had non-local addresses. One-third of the supporters were directly linked to the charity (though most failed to declare so).

HorseWorld saw visitor numbers hit the 100,000 mark in 2011…the eventual aim is to increase numbers by around 35,000 a year.

As Highways Development Control has noted, “the anticipated increase in annual visitor numbers…from 100,000 to 134,000 per annum, ‘based on research’, no information has been submitted in order that those assumptions can be checked/verified.”

In other words, the Bristol Post-annointed ‘Communicator of the Year’ HorseWorld loves to spin a good yarn, to tell a tall tale – but can’t really back up any of its claims. And as for Ribbeck and the Post, well, who needs facts when you’ve a full tin of Evo-Stik Impact and a carrier bag on your desk.

Anyway, if anyone is in Barf tomorrow and at a loose end, do pop in to the Brunswick Room at the Guildhall for the Development Control Committee meeting; kick-off is at 2pm.

Though this might not be the end of the matter – even if BANES passes it through though, it looks likely to face objections from Bristol City Council…


Web ExclusiveFollowing a tip-off last night The BRISTOLIAN can report that the ‘interestingly’ managed charity HorseWorld will not be seeing its planning applications for a massive housing development and new visitor centre go before the BANES Development Control Committee today – thanks to the sensational LAST MINUTE DUMPING of the matter from the agenda.

Bath & North East Somerset Council’s DCC is still meeting this afternoon… Only without any discussion of the controversial concrete-in-the-greenbelt scheme that HorseWorld boss Mark ‘Am I In This Month’s BRISTOLIAN Again?’ Owen seems to think is the only way to reverse the financial rot that set in during his five year tenure as Managing Director.

A council source told The BRISTOLIAN:

The applications have been withdrawn – this was done by officers not the applicant. There is further information to be obtained, and issues to be clarified…

Just what could that “further information” be? What “issues” need to be “clarified”? Could it be that the recent revelations in your lovable ‘Smiter’ have been read down yonder..?

It’s expected that Owen’s DOOMED PLANS will be resubmitted to next month’s DCC meeting on 20 November.

In the meantime, questions continue to be asked about a number of aspects to Owen’s development proposals, not least the ‘SECTION 106 CONTRIBUTIONS’.

‘Section 106’ obligations are legally enforceable requirements on a piece of land that a local authority negotiates with an owner. When major development like what’s planned for the HorseWorld land is in the pipeline, it’s meant to ensure that the developer bears some of the financial strain on local services, such as education, roads and health facilities.

And as you can imagine, 125 new houses in a village of barely more than 1,300 people can definitely be seen as major.

So given the FINANCIAL STRAITS that HorseWorld is in, offering £1,008,254.52 in s106 money (‘HorseWorld Trust Financial Viability Statement’) seems pretty impressive (though as some have noted, s106 negotiations are often skewed in favour of the developer).

Certainly, as some of the submissions in support of HorseWorld’s plans suggest, more housing for local people – something of a hot local potato at the moment – would be a great idea.

As HorseWorld marketing assistant Amy Williams noted (whilst simultaneously forgetting to mention who she’s employed by):

Housing is very much needed in the area and will allow the existing listed buildings to be converted and preserved. The site for the housing fits inperfectly with the existing built up area surrounding it. Well done HorseWorld for a well thought out plan!

Well done indeed! And well done Amy for describing so well the need for affordable housing for Whitchurch locals whilst she herself lives in a £200,000+ house in, err, Staple Hill!

Amy’s boss, Communications Manager Samantha Greatbanks – an actual Whitchurch resident – echoes the sentiment:

I feel that for my generation these houses will provide a new place to live that is close to home.

Admirable sentiments from someone living in a half-a-million quid property!

Still, it will be great that with 125 new homes in Whitchurch young locals not born with a silver spoon in their mouth will be able to find homes in their own village and not be forced out by stupidly high house prices, isn’t it?

Erm… Well it seems that HorseWorld isn’t that keen on the idea. Its million pound s106 offer is only on the table if it’s allowed to provide just 10% affordable housing on the site – a mere dozen homes for ordinary Whitchurch people.

That’s contrasted with the not-much-less-meagre demand – carried unanimously – of the BANES Development Control Committee for 35%.

And when you consider that around 110 new dwellings would attract roughly 300 new residents with well over a hundred extra motor vehicles between them, and increase demand for school places by at least a hundred, just how far will that £1,008,254.52 stretch?

Does Mark Owen and the charity bosses who approved his perks and company car and salary hikes – whilst the horse-loving staff at the sharp end survive on little more than minimum wage – really think the people of Whitchurch are so witless?


Web ExclusiveFollowing on from our recent stories about how HorseWorld’s CRAP BOSS, Managing Director Mark Owen, has been CRACKING THE WHIP and forcing workers to send in letters in favour of the charity’s planning applications – due to be considered today – here’s the full list showing which of the 72 supporters who wrote to Bath & North East Somerset Council are linked to the award-winning Whitchurch equine centre…

Employees, volunteers etc who didn’t declare their interest:

  1. AMY WILLIAMS  (Marketing/Communications Assistant?)
  2. ANDREA MOUNTAIN  (Unknown role)
  3. DAWN PARKER-WATKINS  (Wife of Jerry Watkins?)
  4. EMILY MITCHARD (Community & Corporate Fundraiser)
  5. EMMA BURT  (Recent volunteer)
  6. IAN RICHLEY  (Partner at Smith & Williamson, where Trustee Mike Neale is also Partner)
  7. JERRY WATKINS  (Director of National Equine Welfare)
  8. JULIE SCARRETT  (Marketing Assistant)
  9. KAREN HARDWICK  (Visitor Centre Yard Manager)
  10. KAYLEIGH MACLEOD  (Training Groom)
  11. KIM POUNSBERRY  (Education Worker)
  12. KIRSTIE SMITH (Groom/Visitor Centre Assistant)
  13. MARG STENNER  (Trustee)
  14. MARCUS LEE KEARTON  (Equine Welfare Groom)
  15. NIKKI BRIDGES  (Director of Finance)
  16. REBECCA HOPKINS  (Director of Human Resources)
  17. SAMANTHA GREATBANKS  (Marketing & Communications Manager)
  18. SAMANTHA GROVER  (Stable Assistant)
  19. SHARON CREWE   (Visitor Centre Coordinator)

Employees, volunteers etc who did declare their interest:

  1. ALISON RAWLING (Worked at HW for 5 years)
  2. DEBBIE LINTON (Volunteers at HW)
  3. JANET PERRNS (Fundraising Manager until recently)
  4. MARK ROGERS (“Worked for HW for 26 years”)
  5. PAULINE REED (“Recently started working for the charity”)
  6. VICKY GREENSLADE (Visitor Centre Yard Assistant Manager)

Other supporters who did declare an indirect interest:

  1. ANNETTE LINTON (Daughter volunteers at HW)
  2. MICHAEL TOMS (Local supplier)
  3. N.J. ROBERTSON (Local vet)
  4. V CAMERON  (Former volunteer)

That’s heading towards HALF of the written support for HorseWorld’s half-baked development plans coming directly from, err… people involved in running HorseWorld! And that’s just who cropped up without any particularly deep digging!

Of course, no one should be prevented from putting across their opinion just because of where they work – but why hide your connection to an organisation that wants to undertake such a massive development? Unless the idea is to deliberately give the impression of being impartial local voices…

That’s certainly what the charity’s cash-burning senior management might like BANES to think its dealing with!


We have had word that the HorseWorld planning applications have been dropped from today’s Development Control Committee meeting, which was due to take place at 2pm.

We will try and confirm exactly what is going on and report back as soon as we hear something.


Web ExclusiveOn the trail...A curious tale, is this HorseWorld planning application shenanigans

As we reported yesterday, the HOPELESS BOSS of the charity (which, it should go without saying, does great work rehoming and rehabilitating horses, donkeys and other equine beasts that have come upon hard times) – Mark ‘Large Sums’ Owen – has been leaning on his 60-odd employees and 150+ volunteers to send in letters of support to BANES Council.

We reported that – based on Bath & North East Somerset Council’s own figures – there had been 615 letters of objection and 110 letters of support. Having crunching through all the available information, we can reveal some STARTLING FACTS.

There have actually been 108 expressions of support, from a total of 72 people, split across two separate planning applications – both the ‘enabling’ application for a massive housing development, and the ‘enabled’ application for a new visitor centre.

Even more interesting is that of those 72 supporters, we have POSITIVELY IDENTIFIED* 23 of them as trustees, executive officers, managers, paid employees or current (or very recent) volunteers. A 24th is a partner in HorseWorld’s investment manager Smith & Williamson – alongside trustee Michael Neale. A 25th appears to be the wife of a director. Of these 25 with clear, proven interests in HorseWorld, just SIX have declared that interest.

Curiously, of the other 47 supporters, only FOUR mention any specific connection to HorseWorld: the mother of a volunteer, an ex-volunteer, and two businesses which trade with the charity – something of a statistical anomaly in the circumstances…

Is Large Sums getting so desperate that he thinks he can get away with such an amateurish attempt to ‘astroturf’ support for his ill-thought out master plan?

* Just to be clear, we have only counted clear evidence of close connection to HorseWorld – such as paid employment, current or very recent volunteering etc – and we haven’t sneakily included every person who has ‘Liked’ a post on the HorseWorld Facebook page, or described themselves somewhere as a ‘supporter’ of the charity.


More scandal from Whitchurch’s beleaguered equine charity HorseWorld…

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

Web ExclusiveFull-of-himself HorseWorld boss Mark ‘Not That One’ Owen has been serving up the Kool-Aid to his demoralised staff and forcing them to write to Bath & North Somerset Council…

Why? He wants them to support his INSANE PLANS to knock down the current visitor centre so that he can flog off the land to housing developers – and, err, build an ugly gurt shed of a new visitor centre!

The scheme – which would see 125 houses squashed into a village of only 460 dwellings – could be the last roll of the dice for Owen, who took hold of the reins in 2008. Desperate to justify a 2013 pay rise that many would call OBSCENE – even if it were for the MD of a well-performing charity, let alone one that’s lost over a million quid in just two years – Owen’s attention has been fixed on getting planning permission for his madcap plans. His vain hope? That this might improve the ‘Visitor Offer’ and thereby solve the BUDGETARY CRISIS he himself created during his flimsy tenure.

It’s not a view shared by locals – 615 letters objecting have already been received by BANES, along with representations against the development from both Whitchurch and Compton Dando Parish Councils, plus Bristol City Council and the Whitchurch Village Action Group.

Particular concerns have been the added strain on local schools, services and roads, Owen’s back-of-a-fag-packet estimates of increased visitor numbers and memberships, building into the greenbelt, and a lack of environmental features.

But ever the resourceful spiv, Owen hatched a cunning plan to win over the BANES Planning Development Committee, which meets this Wednesday (23 October) to consider his planning applicationDEMANDING staff must write to the council with letters of support for his plan! No ifs, no buts, that letter had to be penned. Only they mustn’t say they’re connected to HorseWorld, lest they undermine their case.

A swift look at the council’s planning website reveals a large proportion of those 110 letters ‘supporting’ Owen’s plans are, in fact, from the charity’s paid employees, volunteers and even trustees. They don’t reveal themselves as such, no doubt in the hope that the council will be hoodwinked into thinking they’re independent-minded people.

Those supporters deftly avoiding any mention of their connection to HorseWorld include finance supremo Nikki Bridges (remember her from The BRISTOLIAN #4.7?), Director of National Equine Welfare Jerry Watkins and his wife Dawn Parker-Watkins, human resources boss Becky Hopkins, trustee Marg Stenner, visitor centre coordinator Sharon Crewe, marketing and communications manager Samantha Greatbanks, education worker Kim Pounsberry, training groom Kayleigh Macleod

Meanwhile, those HorseWorld trustees who’ve supported Owen every step of his disastrous way – like Andrew Dowden, Ernie Hemmings and John Newman – remain desperately tight-lipped.

It couldn’t be that any of them work in the construction or financial investment industries with the chance of CASHING IN on Owen’s greenbelt concrete fantasy, could it..?