Annual Report of the Armando Martins Campaign – Highlighting Achievements and the need for further work to make it more difficult for planning laws to be abused.
It is now just under two years since the petitioners of the Armando Martins Campaign asked Canterbury City Council to re-instate Armando Martins’s amateur radio antenna, – after it was ordered to be removed following an act of mobbing.
Acting on behalf of the mob, council workers had successfully curtailed Armando’s hobby causing him to move. After he moved the council workers continued to interfere with his lifestyle for several months. The impact of this struggle, a journey lasting over several years, was to thoroughly depress, stress and demoralise him.
The immediate aim of this campaign in late 2016 was to expose the nature of his treatment and counter the behaviour he encountered by resolving the issues raised by all parties. We wanted the council to fully re-instate his statutory and human rights (to develop and use his property.) These rights had been arbitrarily put to one side in order to satisfy his assailants.
A second case (case 2) was used to compare Armando’s experience with, this came to court in March 2018. It resulted in the assailant being found guilty of assault and given a conditional discharge. The victim in case 2 is currently enjoying a respite from the bullying he received from a toxic neighbour and is able to get on with his life.
Both victims are now able to get on with their lives. Armando was removed to safer accommodation, and, while he has now regained his lifestyle and thanked the council, he cannot yet draw a line under the whole experience, due to the number of avoidable incidents involving council workers which infringed his rights and flaunted various policies. Case 2 approaches a similar junction.
Where it could, the campaign gave Armando help to resolve the incidents and acted as agents and advocate, helping him through; three incidents, a complaint to the local government ombudsman, a planning application and its subsequent appeal. Our approach was to walk with him during this part of his journey and share his experience.
Currently Armando is pursuing legal action against the council staff who he thinks have helped, by breaching his rights. He means to recover costs and make sure others don’t get the same treatment.
In September 2018 there is a noticeable difference to Armando’s outlook. Over a cup of tea in the radio shack at his new home, we were listening to an Italian radio station making contacts with many other countries across the globe. By October 2018 he has himself made contacts in North and South America, the Indian Ocean and Europe using his latest antenna, and he is building up a steady number of contacts with pins on the world map – proving the aerial is doing its job. He is now in the process of improving his garden and living accommodation, and looking after his health while planning a future expedition.
Learning Opportunities – Armando
For 78 year old Armando, the last six months have been good for learning about radio, and this years focus has been on how to get good transmitting performance, with the minimum of local impact, while complying with the planning laws governing his experimentation with aerials in the back yard. (These are set out in the national planning policy framework (NPPF) (revised in July 2018) and related documentation, the most important being Planning Policy and Guidance No 8 – Telecommunications.)
Lessons Learned by the Campaign
The campaign was also learning. To get to this point, we studied and consulted planning experts at the radio society of great Britain (RSGB). As an organisation the campaign put the views of its forty three thousand signatories to the UK Planning Authorities and the Radio Society as well as the council and housing departments involved.
The radio society guidelines were re-published in September 2018. The campaign has two constructive criticisms for an otherwise welcome revision. It omits to appraise the significant changes made to planning policy and inform the reader of some important developments relative to them which changed in 2018. Also it ignores the Armando Martins Campaigns approaches to the RSGB over their attitude to neighbour bullying aka nightmare neighbours, abuse of radio hams and the planning authorities. However it gives good advice.
Nightmare Neighbours and The RSGB
The RSGB’s current policy regarding the neighbour nightmare is that it takes a bystander role. According to Dr Tim Field, et al, bystanders tend to sit on their hands and indulge in victim blaming during encounters with bullies.
The RSGB puts getting on with the neighbours at the centre of its policy as a means for members to achieve their planning goals.
We say, while the majority of people benefit from great relationships with their neighbours this should never be a pre-requisite to entering into a venture that needs planning consent. This is because of the numbers of toxic mindsets at large in the community (see below).
In case study two, the victims normal neighbours allowed him to put antenna wires in their gardens and encouraged the diversity his hobby brought to the area. A toxic neighbour objected and cut the wires in several acts of covert (and then overt) sabotage.
We established that getting on with the neighbours is normative behaviour noting that toxic people have an ability to pass off their behaviour as normal.
By denying or playing down the existence of toxic minds, we think it forces others to comply with a range of undesirable or inappropriate behaviours. Some examples are; openness to coercive control, to get the victim to indulge in bribery, to be false – by being nice to people you don’t really like, to expose you to emotional blackmail, and\or force you to hide or limit your activity. (The victim in case 2 said “You will recognise all is not well if you receive a veiled or overt threat when talking to your neighbours”). “Do we have to put up with that?” “Eyesore” or unwelcome questions about your property are indicators that all is not well.
Such a threat might not come directly, but via the planning department. Toxic people like to create fear. This is supported by anonymity, which is often used by planning authorities as a tool to gather intelligence on “illegal” developments etc.
In our opinion talking openly about what you do for pleasure is an open invitation to a toxic mindset. Therefore the RSGB should explain its policy further.
To support this view the campaign discovered through the work of Svenn Torgersen, PhD; Einar Kringlen, MD; Victoria Cramer, PhD a prevalence of people at large in the community exhibiting a dark triad of behavioural traits or personality disorders such as sadistic personality disorder. By comparing the traits of people exhibiting toxic behaviour with normal behaviour we concluded that there are small numbers of people in the target population who are exposed to being victimised by neighbours with these traits. We conclude its no co-incidence to find six people in the target community reporting toxic neighbour\council worker issues via social media, all in the south east of England. #MeToo
The victim in case two records his assailant has many of the traits associated with sadistic personality disorder. Someone who spent time making up and trying to enforce a set of rules on his victim and reporting the most minor and sometimes made up “infringements” or “misdemeanours” to the police or the planning\housing authorities for his own pleasure. Victim 2 makes the point normal people are more forgiving and polite about mistakes and errors and don’t tell lies. All of his “errors” and “mistakes” were shouted at him – or were lies, made up and shouted at him in front of the other neighbours. They all feared the assailant – as a tyrant. “All of this was ignored by the police until he assaulted me”.
Gaming the System
There is enough evidence to prove there are corresponding numbers of toxic people with the type of mindset that would willingly exploit “the planning system” or the willingness of council workers to get their neighbours to toe the line (coerce them into compliance with their false rules, or for some other (sadistic) pleasure.
Pot luck for the victim who depends on the skills of policy makers, council workers and police to detect and rectify sometimes criminal behaviour, only to find more of the same or limited services. One further learning experience involves discovering just how much effort is needed to deal with nightmare neighbours because of the protective envelope of bureaucracy and lack of support for victims. Victims blaming also brings victim punishment from people who role themselves as by-standers. The reaction of authorities when asked for help, may well take the form of bureaucracy – being forced into complaint systems, appeal systems and judicial services that are designed not to be productive.
During the petition phase of the campaign we listened to lots of opinion, and contacted responsible people in: Canterbury City Council and East Kent Housing, The department for Community and Planning and the planning inspectorate, and also the Radio Society of Great Britain, these organisations also all played a hand in getting to this point. We were particularly inspired by the contribution of people on Facebook especially the un-official Radio Society of Great Britain and Amateur Radio UK groups for sharing their experience and views (and for not booting me out).
What does success looks like?
Not all opinions were appropriate or agreeable, and some conflicted with the campaigns views. They did however tell us what success would look like and how it would be achieved, by influencing these organisations in variable degrees and how we would know it was changing. For example with the radio society who supported us with planning advice, and who have recently updated their guidance which was outdated and inaccurate. We think we even managed to re-focus their strategy by highlighting the benefits for elderly people of hobbies, by pointing them towards good practice such as the Men’s sheds movement. We notice the RSGB has broadened their strategy in that very direction. We also came across taboos, and people unwilling to stand up for Armando – blaming him for his situation. That’s not unusual, its human. Nonetheless an inappropriate value in this day and age. Also we passed on the requirement for changes, to the national planning policy framework team and after evaluating it for the planning inspectorate, are reasonably sure that it has now changed in areas we highlighted, and that will make a big difference – over time.
They think it’s all over…
We could leave it here but Armando thinks if we do, sooner or later he or somebody else will face this treatment and therefore he is now taking action that will close the problem down completely. To support him he asks you to view his crowdfunding page here and join him in taking further preventative measures. The campaign remains open for business.
Best wishes and many thanks,