Gone but never forgotten - John Gawthorp says he will continue planning battle after council burnt down his home
PUBLISHED: 13:31 08 January 2018 | UPDATED: 13:31 08 January 2018
Eleven years ago he stood with his wife and watched as an enforcement team burnt his home to the ground.
John Gawthorp has never forgotten that day and he says he will fight till his dying breath to prove it was an illegal act.
“I’ll never give up – someone who is innocent will never give up,” he said.
The ‘Great Fire of Bedlam Bridge’ in 2006 saw his stable home on the outskirts of March first pulled down and then set alight as Fenland District Council carried out enforcement action against him.
Mr Gawthorp insisted then – and continues to insist to this day – that the council’s one stop shop at Chatteris had given him the nod to sell his house in Chatteris and move to a piece of land he’d bought at Bedlam Bridge.
He moved to the site in 2004 and over the following two years fought unsuccessfully to stay there.
“My wife wanted us to move there – it was meant to bring us happiness but has brought us nothing but misery,” he said.
Mr Gawthorp has always maintained Fenland officials gave him the green light to move there but with no permission in writing he was always on a hiding to nothing.
“When I had the two ladies speaking together at the one stop shop and they told me it was ok I took their advice,” he said. “I wasn’t naïve if that’s what you are thinking.”
Court battles followed the enforcement with Mr Gawthorp losing every legal move he fought to prove the council was in the wrong.
Last August the council, through a Freedom of Information request, produced notes of a meeting with Mr Gawthorp held in September 2006 with planning officer Steve Robshaw and witnessed by another planning officer Andy Brand and the then section 106 monitoring officer Emma Grima.
The notes confirmed officials telling Mr Gawthorp that without written authority he did not have permission to build at Bedlam Bridge.
“As the conversation was getting nowhere I suggested that Mr G should leave,” noted Mr Robshaw.
A further probe by the Information Commissioner, released last May, also cleared the council of any wrong doing and dismissed any allegation that documents had been withheld or not disclosed.
The commission concluded that given the considerable time that had passed and the fact that all of the officers involved are no longer working for the council, “on the balance of probabilities” the council was correct to say all relevant information had been released to Mr Gawthorp.
Mr Gawthorp, who returned to live in Chatteris with his wife, insists he will continue to fight the case.
“I still need answers and I still maintain I had a verbal permission to move there,” he said.