North Avenue appeals hearing concludes
The Public Inquiry into the two Appeals has now finshed and the Inspector is making his deliberations and we should hear the decision within the next feww weeks. In the meantime this is a report on what happened at the hearing. based on a report given to the Darley Abbey Society Committee on 15 June 2016.
As readers will be aware, the applicant Mr Shally is eeking consent for the development of up to 49 dwellings on land off North Avenue.
The Public Inquiry has been held into the two Appeals seeking consent for the development of up to 49 dwellings on land off North Avenue: 'Appeal A' taking access from the west end of North Avenue (around 1 Church Lane); and 'Appeal B' taking access from the east end of North Avenue beside 15 North Avenue.
The Darley Abbey Society represented residents' opposition as a Third Party, with the kind support of Jeremy Eagles (on Heritage and Green Wedge), Peter Steer (on site highways and water run-off), and Chris Hall (on off-site traffic and community safety).
The Inspector opened the Inquiry on Tuesday 7 June, setting out the timetable and establishing who wished to speak. Cllr Martin Repton was present and, as he was unlikely to be able to attend on the day allocated for Third Party Contributions, he was given the opportunity to speak and spoke with conviction against the Appeals.
The Inspector made an accompanied site visit in the afternoon, and on Wednesday 8, Thursday 9, and Friday 10 June evidence was taken from the City Council, Third Parties, and then the Appellant in turn. As well as presenting evidence, the Darley Abbey Society representatives were also given an opportunity to cross-examine the Appellants. The Inspector said he would make a further un-accompanied visit (after ensuring there were no objections) and the Inquiry concluded on Wednesday 15 June with discussion of potential Planning Conditions and Closing Statements from the Darley Abbey Society, the Council, and the Appellant.
The issues dealt with by the Inquiry were wide ranging, and Jeremy Eagles' Concluding Statement follows this report.
With regard to the conduct of the Inquiry, the Inspector demonstrated a very even-handed approach, and took every opportunity to ensure that anyone who wished to speak could do so.
In our opinion the steps taken by the Darley Abbey Society made a considerable contribution to the proceedings. We had previously briefed Mark Suggitt, Director of the World Heritage Site, to ensure that he was fully aware of the potential threat the Appeals posed. He was called in support of the City Council, and gave a robust defence of the World Heritage Site and its Statement of Outstanding Universal Value. It is reasonable to say that Jeremy's support regarding Heritage and Green Wedge issues was consistent with and supportive of the arguments advanced by the City Council Officers and Mr Suggitt. However it became necessary for Peter Steer to point out the significant shortcomings regarding the Appeals' proposals for the 2 options for site access, ranging from collision and other safety risks to the implied 'blot on the landscape' major earthworks that would be required. Highways Officers really did not seem to understand the enormity of the proposals; as the Appellant's Barrister commented in her summing up: "With regard to gradient issues, The Council has no objection to Appeal B on Highways grounds. The local highway authority is satisfied that a safe means of access can be achieved subject to the imposition of appropriate conditions." It was a great disappointment that pursuing these matters relied on the input of volunteers, rather than Highways Officers.
Peter also identified shortcomings with regard to provision for surface water run-off, and he pointed out that correcting this would significantly increase the amount of land required for the balancing pond. Neither the Appellant nor the City Council Officers addressed community concerns regarding the implications of the single point of access where South Avenue meets Church Lane, in spite of the scores of letters expressing concern, and it was therefore Chris Hall who gave evidence regarding this.
While we will not know the Inspector's decision until his Report is published, it is already clear that we should be very grateful for the work undertaken by Jeremy, Peter and Chris. The matters they had to deal with were very complex, and they more than held their own against highly paid professionals due to skill and careful preparation in which they had invested so much time.