More scandal from Whitchurch’s beleaguered equine charity HorseWorld…
Full-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 application… DEMANDING 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..?