11 May Public Inquiry – Site Visit – How did it go?
SITE VISIT REVIEW – Thursday 11th May
We have had a number of requests for our thoughts on how Wednesday’s site visit went.
The simple answer is “we have no idea” as the Planning Inspector is totally inscrutable and doesn’t give anything away.
None of the other parties are in any better position than we are – none of us has any clue what he thinks.
The views, and public rights of way
However, the weather was on our side, as was the timing of spring, and the Inspector would have had to have a heart of steel not to see how beautiful our Green Belt is.
Back to practical realities, the good weather enabled him to see Bedmond from a house on Cherry Hill which is important for the “merging of settlements” argument – one of the 5 key purposes of the Green Belt.
This is also an important factor; private individuals have a very limited right to a view, but views with public access are very important.
Huge thanks to all those of you who organised to walk their dogs just at the right times around the PROWs (Public Rights of Way) as the Inspector was viewing them; again it was very important for the Inspector to see that they are well used.
Our signs and their impact
“Team Signs” has done a fantastic job since before Easter, making and putting out signs, monitoring, salvaging, repairing, remaking and putting out again the many, many signs and banners that have made our message to the Inspector very clear.
Despite the vandals out damaging our signs this morning as quickly as we could put them out, the Inspector can be in no doubt as to the strength of feeling here – Chiswell Green does not want big developments on our Green Belt, and we don’t want the traffic and pollution that would come with them.
Mr Gove’s goal – for communities to “want the developments being built in their areas” – is clearly not going to be met in Chiswell Green.
We are very grateful to everyone who displayed a window poster, retrieved signs – whole and damaged – monitored Ring Doorbell cameras in the hope of finding out who might have been damaging them – and hosted sites for our signs in private gardens or verges.
We couldn’t have made the impact we have without help from everyone.
You may have noticed our signs disappearing; for the most part, please don’t worry …. we are taking them down ourselves, partly to be able to reuse them if necessary, and partly as a thank you to the local residents’ association, and Parish and District Councillors who very kindly tolerated all our signs for many months.
If you would like to take down your window posters now, please do, although maybe put them somewhere safe for the moment in case we have another site visit – maybe from Mr Gove !
So overall, how did the site visit go?
Our view is that the site visit was a point in our favour.
It is disappointing that the Inspector did not visit all the stops we wanted him to, but we can only hope that this is because it was so obvious that our arguments against the claims of the appellants were so clearly right that he had no further need to see these aspects for himself.
For example, we hope this is true of his refusal to walk down Tippendell Lane – part of the journey to How Wood and Park Street stations.
However, for an Inspector who writes very little down compared to other inspectors, he made plenty of notes on Wednesday.
We may not be experienced at putting our case forward, unlike the appellants and barristers in this Inquiry, but on Wednesday, maybe the land spoke for itself.
Now the Planning Inspector needs to go away, distil all the information he has heard, and set that into the legal, political and practical context of housing need and delivery, Green Belt protections, and decisions being made elsewhere.
When the Inquiry was due to end on 26th April, we expected to have a decision by 31st May.
With the Inquiry having been extended, however, the decision date has now been set as “not yet decided”.
You may know that our local MP, Daisy Cooper, tabled a question directly to Mr Gove asking him to recover the appeals.
A junior member of his department responded with a very evasive answer to say recovery decisions are made in accordance with a Written Ministerial Statement from 30th June 2008. Daisy has therefore tabled two further, but almost identical, questions.
We will update you if we hear anything more about this but we are given to understand that Daisy should get her answer before 15th May.
Our own request to Mr Gove was submitted on Monday evening, and in only 3 days, over 400 of you had used our form to message Mr Gove yourselves to support our request.