John Bunnett is the man charged with delivering the £2.7bn project we know as Otterpool Park. This development is anticipated to deliver 8,500 homes, in the first phase with the possibility of a further 1,500 homes.
Tomorrow, 17th Nov, the Otterpool Park LLP members and owners will meet behind closed doors, to consider the draft business plan of the LLP. John will be at the meeting.
But what do we know about John?
The first record of John comes in the mid 1990’s when he worked for BIFFA Waste Services, before moving on to become a project manager for SITA (GB) Ltd ( Société Industrielle de Transport Automobile) in 1999. SITA were a Waste Management Company.
While working for SITA, John and three friends incorporate a company, registered at Companies House by the name of Greedy Legs Ltd on the 19th Nov 1999. He was, and remains a director and shareholder.
In 1999, SITA submit a planning application to Kent County Council for an Integrated Waste Management Facility, at Ridham Dock, Iwade, Sittingbourne – SW/99/777. KCC officers recommended refusal for the SITA Waste Management Facility at Ridham, on grounds of uncertainty about local air quality and effects on wildlife.
John Bunnett, SITA’s project manager, said:
“Despite conducting extensive air quality modelling, Kent County Council refused planning permission for the energy-from-waste facility. However, in the past 12 months, SITA has undertaken an extensive programme of air quality analysis and we are confident that the additional information will satisfy the county’s requirements.”
Again the application was knocked back and SITA lost an appeal to the Secretary of State.
On the 30th May 2000, Greedy Legs Ltd purchased land from Bretts (the aggregate people) to the south of Little West Court, Salt Lane, Cliffe, Rochester for £600,000 (see map below) according to the Land Registry. The site was then leased back to Brett, according to information on the title deed.
purchased on the 30th May 2000 for £600,000
In April 2002, SITA announce they will submit a new planning application for an energy from waste plant, this time to be located at Richborough on the Kent coast. In addition to the air quality information, the new application will also address other environmental impact issues raised by the council. Mr Bunnett said:
“By providing this information we believe that we have a more robust application that addresses all the county council’s initial concerns.”
However by August 2002, John has moved from SITA to London Waste and become their new business development director.
John remains with London Waste until the end of 2004. In the new year, 2005, the year John turns 40, his life begins in Local Government, working for Thanet District Council (TDC) as a strategic director. He was initially responsible for environmental, leisure, culture, tourism and street scene services.
Within months of John’s arrival at Thanet he was speaking to the BBC on the 1st May 2005, about the failed water quality tests for Viking Bay, Thanet. In a statement to them he said:
On Nov 24th 2005, a report comes before Thanet District Council Cabinet where a proposal is put for decision:
“To reach agreement with Brett Aggregates to improve the aggregate discharge facilities at the Port of Ramsgate”.
Bretts (the aggregate people) wanted to put a concrete batching plant at Ramsgate Harbour in simple terms. The negotiations were commenced by the Harbour Master – Captain Grey, succeeded by Captain Evans – and supervised by John Bunnett, a senior member of TDC’s management team.
Did John let his then boss, Chief Exec of TDC, Richard Samuels, know he leased land to Brett, which he and his fellow directors of Greedy Legs Ltd had purchased from them in May 2000?
In 2006, John had direct responsibility for the management of Port of Ramsgate & the Royal Harbour. This means John had direct involvement in the plans for the dredging of Ramsgate Harbour which was supposed to happen between 1 June 2005 and the 30 June 2008, paid for in part by EU Funding.
In 2016, Public Finance reported “Government auditors have said the police should investigate an alleged fraud over Thanet District Council’s use of a European Union grant.”
The Government Audit’s report goes onto say Thanet received €160,282 from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) towards a 2005/2008 project to dredge the Port of Ramsgate, which it owned, to enable larger vessels to use it.
Acting on information from a whistleblower, the Government Auditors said this work was not carried out.
The report noted: “Evidence was provided which showed Thanet District Council staff were aware the works required under the conditions of the funding had not been carried out and on receipt of ERDF grant set this aside in case a repayment was required; subsequently this was re-allocated to the Port of Ramsgate budget.”
Thanet was unable to explain the “unusual” accounting treatment used.
Correspondence seen by auditors suggested council officers no longer employed “made a decision to retain ERDF funding knowing dredging works carried out during the project period had been financed within existing budgets and that the works carried out were not those required under the conditions of ERDF funding.”
The Government auditor concluded “There is sufficient evidence in our view of intent to defraud,” and said the police should be asked to investigate the alleged fraud.
John was the person with direct responsibility for the Port of Ramsgate & Ramsgate Harbour at the time the Government Auditor report refers to, 2005 – 2008.
TDC said that, in accordance with council policy, the matter had also been referred to Kent Police.
A spokesman for Kent Police said: “This was originally reported to Kent Police in 2013 when a decision was made that there was insufficient evidence of criminality to commence an investigation at that time.
“However in light of the recently published Government report, the circumstances will be revisited to establish whether there is now sufficient evidence to commence an investigation.”
Kent Police have been contacted regarding the revisiting of the “intent to defraud” investigation.
Add in the fact that we’ve already reported that while John was at TDC he sanctioned fictitious overtime to the extent of £1.1 million between April 2007 and late 2009 and purchased Barney a Mitisubishi Shogun.
Just the information above gives us cause for concern about John running the Otterpool Park project. You can make up your own mind.
On the 30th July 2009 it was announced that John was to be appointed as the new Chief Executive of Ashford Borough Council. Taking up his new appointment in Oct 2009.
Part 2 – the goings on at Ashford will follow soon.
The Shepway Vox Team
The Velvet Voices of Dissent