Coate Bridge Hearing - Day 1

Posted by Philippa Morgan on 5 April 2016

This is a distillation of eight and three-quarter hours of detailed questioning. It must be read in the context of the writer being, a possibly biased, layman.

At the very outset the Counsel for Wiltshire Council announced that the authority will be applying for costs from the appellant if their defence is successful.

Proceedings were opened by the Inspector who clarified a number of issues. His report and recommendation will go the Secretary of State who will take the final decision and that decision will not be bound by the Inspector’s recommendation. 

He then went on to expand on what he would be looking to both sides to demonstrate.

  • Relationship of the application to the Core Strategy and the Devizes Area Neighbourhood Plan. (DANH)

  • Availability of land to meet the housing targets.

  • Progress in meeting those targets

  • Degree of harm likely to be caused by the development in respect of air quality, traffic generation, infrastructure availability.

  • Balance of harm and benefit.

The Q. C. for M & M then made his opening statement. At an early stage in his address he referred to the DANH as “This curious document”, a remark which did not endear him to his audience, and, considering that M &M’s attempt to have the plan subject to a judicial review had been rejected out of hand by the High Court, a rather ham fisted attempt at undermining its credibility!

His main thesis was that the Council had failed to address a number of issues which had been raised by another inspector at the enquiry into the adoption of the Core Strategy.

In particular that the town’s boundaries had not been reviewed, despite the fact that his issue had been clearly addressed in DANH.

The Counsel for Wiltshire Council then made her opening statement in which she addressed the issues which had been raised and called her two witnesses: the Planning Manager of Monitoring and Evidence and the Team Leader for Spatial Planning.

There followed a detailed defence of the Council’s position with copious reference to various documents.

The two witnesses were then cross-examined by the QC who adopted a particularly pernickety form of questioning based on answer the question “Yes”or “No” and then justify your answer. This was almost bullying in the way it worked which eventually led to the council’s barrister intervening and the Inspector ruling that the tactic must change.

Many of the exchanges seemed to amount to little more than semantics.

After the cross-examination of each witness the Wiltshire barrister was able to re-examine her own witnesses to clarify some of the points that they had made and on which they had been attacked.

During the re-examination the barrister was subjected to several interventions, and although the normal legal courtesies were observed, some of the exchanges were quite sharp.

Having started at 10.00a.m., swords were finally sheathed at 5.45.

Overall impression: I thought that the Council’s case was well presented and convincing.

Tomorrow the appellants have their turn. We shall see.

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