November 11, 2016

Development on land North of Wanderdown Road : An update

Land North of Wanderdown Road( Badgers Walk)
Planning appeal APP/Q1445/W/16/3147419

November 1 – November 4 2016

 

 

The appeal by the developers against the building of 9 houses (reduced from 10 from an earlier application) took place at the Brighton Town hall from Tuesday 1 November to Friday 4 November, before the appointed Government Inspector, Louise Gibbons. On hearing that their planning application was likely to be rejected, the developers pulled the application and opted to go for a public enquiry. Not a tactic likely to endear themselves to Brighton & Hove City Council!!

The enquiry was a marathon! The tactics used by the barrister acting for the developers seemed to be to get so involved in the detail that it bordered on extreme, it also included some very aggressive questioning of witnesses.

The main thrust of the arguments put forward by the developers were

  1. The area had previously been badly mismanaged in ecological terms, the new development would therefore be much better under a proper management regime which would be enforced and which would include better screening of trees protection of badgers settees, more bat boxes etc It should not be forgotten that the poor management regime happened under the watch of the existing developer.
  2. The shortfall in the City’s housing plan made any development worthwhile on this site as it would however small add to the City’s housing stock and happen now in the lifetime of the existing City Plan In fact in his closing argument the developers barrister insisted that the Inspector passed the application, she would be failing in her public duty if she did not!
  3. The developer showed numerous photographs from different viewpoints around the site to show that apart from the view from Mount Pleasant the character of the landscape would be largely unaffected by the development. A half hour questioning of the Council representative of the meaning ‘valued ‘ (as in valued landscape) which she used in her objection to the development, was typical of his deep questioning technique. Referring to recent court judgements, the barrister attempted to show it was not a valued landscape. One of the developers experts went further and described the landscape as not inspiring, in contrast to areas like Devils Dyke, Seven Sisters etc

Before the meeting the Council and the developers had agreed some common ground, the most important point of which was that after amendments to the original drawings , the entrance to the site was passed by the BHCC Highways department as acceptable. The Highways department use Visibility Display tables to calculate the acceptability of entrances to developments. ORPS agreed consistently throughout the hearing that this rule book approach did not adequately reflect local knowledge of the road and the usage of it. This was a point that Mark Richardson whose horses use the road frequently and which was so eloquently argued in his submission.

 

Representatives of ORPS, SAFE and Mary Mears as our local ward councillor were allowed to make speeches against the application. In addition we secured the right to make a closing statement on what we had observed over the period of the enquiry. The text of this is below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Statement from the Ovingdean Residents and Preservation Society (ORPS)

 

Nothing we have seen or heard this week changes our views on the planning application and it should be rejected for the following reasons:

  • There is insufficient infrastructure in the area to support the development, including:
    • Lack of school places
    • Poor public transport resulting increase of use of cars
    • Minimal village facilities
    • Doctors surgeries are full
    • Air pollution targets on one of the main access roads (B2123) are already above legal limits
    • This development would add to the cumulative impact on services within the Deans
  • The site access will create a road safety hazard
    • Despite the council’s opinion, we believe they have not adequately assessed the true local conditions
    • Allowing additional access on this road will result in increased dangers
  • The biodiversity of the site will be adversely affected
  • The landscape and the character of the village will be adversely impacted
    • We were pleased to hear the appellant’s expert Mr Russell-Vick conceding that the site contributed to the rural character of the village
  • An important aspect of the village wildlife corridor will be lost
  • This development will not contribute to the BHCC housing requirements
    • It is likely that these houses will demand prices way in excess of the amounts affordable by those identified as requiring housing. Therefore making this development unnecessary

 

In addition to the above objections we would like the following points recorded by the inquiry.

 

  • We believe that the appellant triggered an appeal based on non-determination prior to the time limit set for the council to make a decision
    • This resulted in a public inquiry which removed the planning decision being made by the BHCC councillors
    • Removed the ability of local residents to express their view to their councillors
  • The pre-clearance work should be factored in when assessing the ecological and arboriculture significance of the site
    • The pictures that John Craddock showed of pre and post clearance speak louder than words
  • We take specific issue with the way in which the previous bad management of the site has been used to portray the current application as being more ecologically sound
    • Despite Mr Clay’s comment that the poor management does not have material consideration, we should not forget that the current owner appears to have deliberately set out to run down the site
  • Mr Clay’s argument that 9 houses are better on the site than enforcing an improved management regime is perverse
  • The late submission of documents has impacted the council and local residents fully assessing the site and other factors
    • An example of this is the appellant’s ecological walkover assessment. We would have provided photographic evidence of the disturbance of the badger setts, had we known that this activity was mentioned in the appellant’s report
    • This report we understand was only submitted just before the inquiry
  • Every argument put forward identifying the site as having significant value was dismissed by the appellant’s representatives
    • By making a subjective assessment that, because it does not have the inspiring views of sites like the Seven Sisters and Devils Dyke and therefore has little merit as an area of outstanding beauty, is ridiculous. Taking this view would downgrade much of rural England
  • We would dispute Mr Clay’s reference to ‘fly tipping’ on the site
    • Much of the fly tipping, as he calls it, has been present for many months and no attempt has been made to remove it
    • And how many fly tippers would open a locked gate, which has warning signs to keep out, and then drive up a narrow track to neatly store road working materials and leave wrecked cars, chunks of concrete and gas cylinders
    • We know that the owner was aware of the rubbish on the site
  • While we recognise that Mr Clay has an entitlement to cross-examine, we were surprised and quite disturbed by his at times overly aggressive questioning and attacks on people’s professional integrity
  • We were also surprised given Mr Clay’s experience in planning appeals that he couldn’t be heard effectively. His difficulties with the microphone certainly disengaged the audience

 

 

Conclusion

 

 

During the course of the enquiry BHCC had contacted the owner of the land to ask for the rubbish to be removed. A truck was removed as a result but little else. In addition a promise was secured from the council that protection would be afforded to the whole of the woodland TPO on the land as part of it was outside the development site.

 

The judgement by the Inspector, is due on or before 5 January 2017.

 

Thanks should be expressed to all residents who attended to give support and especially John Cradock, Annie Gilbert, Mary Mears, Mark Richardson Nigel Smith, Russell Smith, and Brian Thompson

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