Fringe Box



Letter: Council Has Appointed KPMG to Review Burchatts Barn Decision Process

Published on: 14 Apr, 2020
Updated on: 14 Apr, 2020

Burchatts Barn – Photo Mandy Millyard

From: Anthony Plumridge

agent of the Guildford Chiropractic Centre during the July 2019 planning committee hearing

In response to: Council Has Appointed KPMG To Review Burchatts Barn Decision Process

This is an internal investigation [into GBC’s Burchatts Barn decision process] and could have no authority to reverse any of the decisions already made.

Mr Bridger and his supporters regularly claim that Stoke Park was “left to the community in perpetuity”, but on February 24, 1975, Lord Onslow confirmed that it was sold to the Guildford Corporation in 1925 for £42,500, and although safeguarded under the Guildford Corporation Act 1926, that safeguard was repealed under the Surrey Act 1985.

The Shakespeare Company’s bid had a headline rent of £36,000 pa but on condition that GBC give them an annual grant of £7,200 to pay the VAT, let them off some insurance requirements and continue a reduced rent grant of £10,000, so the actual amount offered was significantly less.

They also wanted a break clause after three years and would have used the building for offices and storage, ie preventing public access and enjoyment. Moreover, their plan for a semi-permanent tent in front of the building would have been unsightly and spoiled the character of the area and setting of the listed building.

Will the KPMG “investigation” alter the agreement to lease the building to the Chiropractic Centre? No. Saddest of all, the Chiropractic Centre again finds itself in the middle of a petty local political struggle.

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Responses to Letter: Council Has Appointed KPMG to Review Burchatts Barn Decision Process

  1. David Smith Reply

    April 14, 2020 at 9:56 pm

    Thank you to Mr Plumridge for being so open about what actually has happened here. It’s a shame R4GV or Gordon Bridger failed to provide residents with the above facts.

    Can someone explain to me why the taxpayer should be subsidising a private theatre company? Can someone also confirm if the new premises for Guildford Shakespeare society are being subsidised by us?

  2. John Perkins Reply

    April 15, 2020 at 9:51 am

    As an interested party, Mr Plumridge can only be expected to hope that the investigation reveals no wrongdoing and has no authority to reverse decisions, even if it does. However, its purpose is more likely to be to prevent recurrence rather than administer punishment.

    His detailed legal argument is presumably correct, though many people might question whether the safeguard was repealed or if it simply lapsed.

    The support for the chiropractor’s application was highly unusual, a large number of their clients supported it with comments that amounted to little more than, “They are nice people, treat me well and have hundreds of clients.” Not exactly sound planning reasons. GBC would appear to be at fault for allowing comments that are nothing to do with the planning process, despite specifically saying on its website, that they must be.

    • Andrew Plumridge Reply

      April 16, 2020 at 1:07 am

      Mr Perkins should know that I am not an interested party and that the involvement by KPMG will make no difference to the outcome, so it is arguably little more than a waste of time and money. If there was any suspicion of fraud here the matter would be investigated by a lawyer or the Police, and not by a firm of accountants; if there was an administrative blunder then it would be subject to an internal inquiry or investigation by the Ombudsman. In any event, KPMG does not have the power to change the planning decision, only the courts can do that and the time for any such challenge has expired.

      As to the planning application, GBC’s officers made their recommendation using agreed local plan policy, in the same way that the planning inspector did. Some people were kind enough to write and express their support in exactly the same way that objectors set out theirs, it what happens in a democratic process.

      • John Perkins Reply

        April 16, 2020 at 2:37 pm

        Mr Plumridge acted as an agent for the applicant. His interest is beyond doubt and a matter of public record.

        GBC rejected the application and its decision was only reversed by an inspector of the Secretary of State following an appeal by Guildford Chiropractic Center with Mr Plumridge listed as agent:

        It’s worth noting that although the inspector reached a different conclusion to that of GBC, she found that it acted reasonably and so refused the application for costs.

        The democratically elected members of GBC took into account the views of those supporting the application when they rejected it and the (unelected) inspector found that decision was “based on legitimate planning matters”.

      • Adam Aaronson Reply

        April 17, 2020 at 10:42 am

        If Mr Plumridge is not an interested party, why did he write the letter? Pace James Thurber.

        • Andrew Plumridge Reply

          April 17, 2020 at 2:59 pm

          Mr Aaronson should know that it is possible to be interested in a decision without being an interested party. In this case, the only interested parties are councillors and officials of GBC who took part in the decision. I was not one of these and nor was I a beneficiary.

          One of the tragedies of this matter has been the way that some people have spoken out without knowing the facts and been happy to spread falsehoods and lies.

          • Peta Malthouse

            April 17, 2020 at 4:00 pm

            If Mr Plumridge was the agent who acted on behalf of the proposed lessees then he had an interest, albeit an ongoing professional one with the “benefiting party”, and he can speak on their behalf, by all means. But to say the decision under challenge was of no benefit to him is a bit of a stretch.

            The Borough Council is in the position of Trustees on behalf of the Council Tax Payers. Burchatts Barn is a community asset from the perspective of leisurely pursuits. Borough Councils used not to be expected to make a profit out of every asset. Their purpose requires them to take a bit of a financial hit in order to preserve the facility.

            Just because the original restraints have been removed I am afraid it does not oblige the Borough to let at a market rent. Mr Plumbridge was the agent (it is not clear if he still is) but I am unsure of his professional qualifications and I am sure he would not wish to ask us to rely on his opinion as a statement of the obligations and issues that the Borough is obliged to consider.

          • John Perkins

            April 17, 2020 at 11:51 pm

            Mr Plumridge’s definition of interested parties excludes the applicants and even the inspector of the Secretary of State, who made the final decision. His own position is listed on the Planning Inspectorate website as ‘Agent’.

  3. Sue Hackman Reply

    April 17, 2020 at 1:08 pm

    Will the council tell us how much the KPMG review is costing us, please?

  4. Dave Middleton Reply

    April 17, 2020 at 2:43 pm

    I’m more interested in the rental “deal”, where the council was to subsidise the Guildford Shakespeare Company’s rent for the barn by almost 50%, reducing it from £36,000 to just £18,800 per year. That’s less than the rent of a decent two-bedroomed house in Guildford these days.

    Is there a similar deal in place with regard the GSC’s current premises on Lido Road?

    Smells fishier than a bucket of old pilchards to me.

  5. Andrew Plumridge Reply

    April 18, 2020 at 3:03 pm

    I have to assume that Mr Perkins is being either mischievous or obtuse. The Chiropractors were the beneficiary of the planning decision, which went through the appeal process in accordance with the law. The KPMG review is, as I understand it, an investigation of the council’s earlier decision to lease the building so it is completely different.

    Mr Middleton draws attention to a fishy smell but it is matched by the taste of sour grapes that Mr Perkins and his friends seem to be suffering. Rather than admit that they got it wrong on this occasion they are throwing a tantrum and wasting more of the council’s money on a pointless internal review.

  6. John Perkins Reply

    April 18, 2020 at 9:54 pm

    The chiropractors were not beneficiaries of the GBC planning decision as their application was rejected. They could be called beneficiaries of their subsequent appeal which was upheld by the planning inspector. So too could their agent, who was presumably paid for his services despite losing the claim for costs.

    • Andrew Plumridge Reply

      April 20, 2020 at 1:03 pm

      Mr Perkins needs to focus on reality. The investigation is into an event that took place long before the planning application, which was a consequence of the earlier decision and nothing more. I know it spoils the picture that he and his friends would like to paint but the simple fact is that the KPMG investigation is a completely separate issue and solely an internal matter for GBC.

      It is right that questions are raised over this massive waste of money. During their investigation KPMG will not have the authority to compel witnesses or others to appear at any hearing, nor will they have the authority to compel witnesses to tell the truth, so even from this distance, the report’s conclusions are questionable, unreliable and likely to achieve nothing.

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