Members of West Sussex cancer charity have identities stolen

Members of a West Sussex cancer support charity have had their identities stolen and used to object to a planning application.

Jan Sheward, chair and founder of Cancer United. Pic by Steve Robards
Jan Sheward, chair and founder of Cancer United. Pic by Steve Robards

Grundon Waste Management and Viridor lodged initial plans last summer for an energy recovery facility as well as a waste sorting and transfer facility at the Ford Circular Technology Park.

In response to various objections they withdrew the plans and submitted a revised application last month.

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Cancer United, which covers West Sussex’s coastal areas, aims to improve the physical and mental wellbeing of those with cancer from diagnosis onwards, inspiring them to embrace the things they can do and to refuse to be defined by what they can’t whilst also giving support to those close to them.

Jan Sheward founder and chair of the Angmering-based charity, described how several of her members wrote to West Sussex County Council in support of Grundon’s plans, but eight of them subsequently had their identities stolen and used to register objections instead.

Ms Sheward said: “My members are cancer patients. They are vulnerable and a lot of them are old and do not even use our online sessions for fear of being scammed. It’s a very serious thing and some of them are very traumatised.”

As Cancer United relies on donations and fundraising, it depends on its relationships with local businesses and Ms Sheward describing how Grundon had ‘helped us enormously’.

The company has supported the charity by sponsoring its choir and walking football team and providing free space to store and sort donations.

She therefore wrote to all her members asking them if they felt it appropriate to support the company’s latest application.

However objections have been submitted falsely using the names of seven who had actually written in support registered to fake addresses, while an eighth had only supported last year’s application and not the second one.

Ms Sheward wants the county council to conduct a thorough investigation and suggested this should be done independently.

The charity’s trustees are also considering legal avenues and it has already been reported to Sussex Police under ‘fraud by false representation’.

Ms Sheward described feeling guilty and having sleepless nights since finding out about the situation.

She is also calling on the perpetrator to come forward and apologise.

She added: “I will not let this rest as my members are looking to me for answers. We have been used and abused and these are cancer patients. I’m very angry.”

To find out more about how you can support the charity visit its website.

A WSCC spokesman said: “The county council, as waste planning authority, is responsible for determining the planning application for an energy recovery facility and waste sorting facility at Ford (Ref: WSCC/011/21).

“We have been made aware that a very small number of representations submitted online in response to the public consultation on the planning application may be fraudulent, that is, they have not been submitted by the people named in them.

“This includes cases where it appears that two representations have been made by the same person, one in support of the application and one objecting to it.

“Therefore, we are currently working to identify any potentially fraudulent representations and we will then seek to establish (a) whether the people named in them submitted the representations and (b), if they did, their views on the application.

“The county council will also review its consultation processes and take all reasonable steps to minimise the ability for fraudulent representations to be made in the future.”