The Public Inquiry into the Haddon proposed development for up to 900 houses and application to vary the Section 106 that all Wychwood residents bought into, has now finished its initial phase and we are now in the hands of the Inspector, and ultimately the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, The Rt Hon. Sajid Javid MP.
The Inquiry was presided over by Ms Claire Sherratt DIP URP MRTPI, with representatives from Cheshire East led by Mr Christopher Katkowski QC and the Wychwood Community Group was represented by Mr Andy Bailey and myself. The appellants, Haddon were led by Mr Hugh Richards, Counsel.
The Inquiry was held under Court style rules and evidence was presented by all parties and then that evidence was cross examined by the opposing parties. I believe Andy and I held our own well against the Haddon team and worked well with Cheshire East to present a united front opposing the development. There were also a number of witnesses and independent speakers, including our Ward Councillor Mrs Janet Clowes and Vice Chairman of the Weston and Basford Parish Council Mr John Cornell. Whilst Mr Edward Timpson was unable to attend, a mix of paternity leave, and a three line whip surrounding the Brexit vote, he did provide a very supportive statement (Edward Timpson Statement).
The Inquiry focussed predominantly on local plan policy and political positioning, which was the primary discussion as expected, and conversation on the S106 was of less prominence although Andy Bailey continually pressed the point about our Section 106 rights, and how we believe we have absolute protection against any increase in the housing numbers. The Haddon “evidence” against this was very light and avoided best they could.
The sessions finished on Friday with a lengthy debate on the revised S106, as presented by Haddon, which we strongly object to but does have to be “agreed” in principle by all parties, although it was drawn up by Haddon and Cheshire East, our insistence on being part of it has delayed the closure of the Inquiry for approximately 6 weeks, to allow our views to be incorporated. Whilst this is right and appropriate it is no way a complicit to us agreeing any form of variation to the S106.
The day concluded with Closing Statements from all parties, and both Andy (S106) and I (Trevor Sandry Statement) were able to again compliment Cheshire East and counter all of Haddon’s argument. They obviously took a different view, but I am confident we won the argument.
The next steps are for the Community Group to submit a legal submission around our case to protect our existing S106 and to input into the, hopefully never to be used, varied S106B. There has been a meeting over the weekend to get this going, and we are getting further independent legal advice. From here the Inspector will take around 6 weeks to submit her recommendations to the Secretary of State, for his final decision. We expect that there may well not be a final judgement until late Spring / early Summer.
I am very confident in the case presented by ourselves and Cheshire East, however this is now out of our hands. Fingers crossed until the Summer!!
This decision can only then be appealed if there has been an error in law by the Secretary of State.
Andy and I, with support from the rest of the Committee have worked tirelessly over the past few weeks and months, and this week has been tough with many late nights and early mornings, but very satisfying and eye opening. I only hope that the final decision warrants the efforts we have all put in. I am confident it will.
Finally can I just say a big thank you to the other speakers in support of our case, numerous residents that attended the Inquiry over the 4 days, and to those that thanked Andy and I personally, through Facebook and via emails, it very does make it all worthwhile.
As soon as I hear any further news I will let you all know.
All documents, from all parties will be made available in due course on the Inquiry site.
Trevor Sandry – Chairman