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Daniel Hill, with Questions About ‘Toxic’ Waste, Barred from Public GBC Meeting

Published on: 6 Oct, 2021
Updated on: 7 Oct, 2021

Daniel Hill at the Stoney Castle, Pirbright site at which waste has been dumped

By Julie Armstrong, local democracy reporter,

and Martin Giles

A member of the public wanting answers about waste believed to be toxic was denied access to a Guildford council meeting last night (October 5).

Daniel Hill wants to know what happened to barrels of liquid Guildford Borough Council removed from his father’s land at Stoney Castle which he fears could be cancer-inducing polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), banned 40 years ago.

When he turned up to the meeting in which his written questions and answers were minuted but not read out, two security guards said he was barred and blocked him from entering the council offices. Mr Hill had been given prior notice that he would not be admitted.

The leader of the borough council said he did not allow Mr Hill in because he thought he “might disrupt” the meeting “due to past conduct”.

It led to a ten-minute stand-off in which Mr Hill loudly but calmly demanded to know why they would not allow him in, with only the caretaker left to answer as the meeting progressed inside.

Mr Hill said: “You’ve gone to the extreme lengths of employing these special guys to come here today, I’d like to know under what power.”

“I’m not aware of any powers but, that’s because I’m a caretaker,” came the response.

Mr Hill added: “I don’t want to cause a problem; I can imagine if I leap forward these gentlemen are going to restrain me, that’s the last thing I want to do, but the legislation is very clear.

“If it’s a public meeting, the council have no power to prevent any members of the public attending the meeting. You have just said it’s a public meeting. Unless you can show me otherwise, you’re breaking the law by preventing me attending the meeting.”

See video of Daniel Hill’s encounter with GBC security here.

One of the security guards told him: “All I’ve been told, Mr Hill, is that you’re barred from going into the meeting, that’s all I know.”

Mr Hill said: “So there’s two security guys that have been employed to effectively break the Local Government Act and prevent me, [in] a breach of my rights, and all I’m asking is that you show me some legislation to back that up, I don’t know why that’s so difficult.”

The security guard appeared to nod in agreement.

What was it Daniel Hill wanted to know?

Instead of being given the customary three minutes to address the council, he was asked to submit something in writing.

Mr Hill asked the council to explain what happened to the barrels of “PCB removed from Stoney Castle during the recent GBC (Guildford Borough Council) enforcement action”.

In July the council evicted some illegal occupiers and cleared out scores of old cars and caravans from the site that had for years been used illegally as a dump. At the same time “unidentified oils and liquids”, said by the council to be an obstruction to its operation, were removed too.

Environmental management graduate Gareth Simkins saw a photo of a chemical drum labelled “insulating oil” and believed it could be PCBs, used as coolant fluids in electrical apparatus before being banned in 1979.

Providing a written answer to Mr Hill’s question ahead of the meeting, council leader Joss Bigmore said: “The council is not able to confirm if they were PCBs as suggested in the question; however, these were removed and disposed of legally by the council’s contractor under instruction from the council.

“No acceptance is made of any unevidenced and unsubstantiated allegations as to the alleged toxicity of the contents of the containers.”

The Environment Agency has previously told the LDRS (Local Democracy Reporting Service) it was not aware of these liquids.

Mr Hill wants the council to take action against the neighbouring site to the west of the Stoney Castle site, which the council recognised also had a history of unauthorised dumping of waste.

A Guildford Borough Council spokesman said: “The pollutant linkage is not established and therefore no further action is required by us at this time.”

Why was Daniel Hill barred from the council meeting?

The public legally has the automatic right to access any council meeting, but the law states a council can exclude someone “to suppress or prevent disorderly conduct or other misbehaviour at a meeting”, though Mr Hill said: “They are pre-empting something that was not going to happen.”

On election day the council called police to Pirbright polling station where Mr Hill was handing out flyers asking why no councils had put a stop to the illegal dumping.

The council cites two other occasions of “previous disruptive conduct”, firstly at the last full council meeting in July, when Mr Hill started asking questions in the public participation section without giving advance notice. What was said cannot be heard because the camera was turned off.

He apologised for this, saying he was not aware of the correct council meeting protocol.

The sample of water taken to GBC’s offices by Daniel Hill last month.

And last month, Mr Hill turned up to the council offices in a hazmat suit and said he would stay in reception until the council agreed to test a sample of water he had brought from a stream next to his father’s land near Pirbright.

The council called the police, who attended but found no cause to arrest Mr Hill.

He left when the borough council’s service delivery director promised to email the Environment Agency, which despite being responsible for dealing with polluted water has since made it clear it will not test the stream.

The security guard present, who was also working last night, told the LDRS Mr Hill “has always been polite with me”.

Cllr Bigmore told the LDRS: “We made the decision to exclude a member of the public from our full council meeting last night due to past conduct and behaviour including; being arrested at a polling station, disrupting a previous council meeting to the extent we needed to adjourn the meeting while he was escorted from our premises, forcing a closure of our reception area for a significant period while he protested inside our offices with a container of liquid which he said contained toxic waste.

“He has also continued to persistently contact officers and councillors despite being required not to. We have given the member of the public an opportunity to ask questions and we have provided answers. All of our meetings are held in public and can be viewed live via our webcast.”

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test One Response to Daniel Hill, with Questions About ‘Toxic’ Waste, Barred from Public GBC Meeting

  1. George Potter Reply

    October 7, 2021 at 3:43 pm

    “He apologised for this, saying he was not aware of the correct council meeting protocol.”

    It was explained to Mr Hill, at the meeting in question, that questions had to be submitted in advance. He continued to disrupt the meeting after being told this.

    I therefore can’t help but find his excuse rather disingenuous.

    From a democracy point of view, Mr Hill was allowed to ask his question and was allowed to ask a supplementary question all in writing (and all published on the council website) so that he did not need to attend the meeting to exercise his right to ask questions. His rights have not been abridged in any way.

    George Potter (Lib Dem) is GBC councillor for Burpham and SCC for Guildford East

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