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200916 | Justice delayed, again, in the strange case of the water pipe in Hayle which all the authorities insist is nothing to d


Justice delayed, again, in the strange case of the water pipe in Hayle which all the authorities insist is nothing to do with them

Posted By Rashleigh MacFarlane on 14th September 2020

By Rashleigh MacFarlane

A 14-year-old question about who is responsible for an underground water pipe in Hayle is going to have to wait even longer for an answer, after Truro magistrates again adjourned the trial of a woman who is refusing to pay her council tax.

Mel Sheridan has been in dispute with Cornwall Council, and South West Water, ever since her end-of-terrace home starting sinking into the ground in 2006. The subsidence caused severe damage. It was eventually traced to a broken, ancient water pipe – but no-one will admit to responsibility.

Ms Sheridan has spent more than a decade campaigning for compensation. In January last year it looked as she might be making progress when the council agreed to call on the Coal Authority for assistance.

The Coal Authority would have to decide if the mystery water pipe was once a part of Hayle’s vast complex of former mine workings. But to date, no-one admits to responsibility.

County Hall thought it might have found a novel solution when it wrote off more than two years of unpaid council tax bills as “a goodwill gesture.” The “gesture” had been made by a senior official, not elected councillors. It did little good, as Ms Sheridan continued refusing to pay.

In February this year a new summons for non-payment of last year’s council tax led to a brief hearing. Ms Sheridan was supported at court by dozens of placard-waving protestors. Denying liability for the £759.03 tax bill, Ms Sheridan is insisting on her right to a trial.

 

The council is thought to be rather less enthusiastic about a full hearing, as it might shed more light on the curious circumstances which led to the writing off of more than two years of previous bills, as well as opening the door to a quasi-judicial inquiry into ownership of and responsibility for the underground water pipe. County Hall insists the council tax issue is entirely separate from the broken pipe, and denies any responsibility for the damage to Ms Sheridan’s home.

Covid-19 led to several more delays before the court case was finally listed for trial on Wednesday (16th September.) But now the hearing has been delayed again. Last week Ms Sheridan received a letter from the court telling her of a further adjournment, until 2pm on 2nd December, again blaming the delay on Covid-19.

rashleighmacfarlane@cornwallreports.co.uk