Barrow FarmContributed by Langley Burrell Resident's Association

Update May 2017

 
Hitchens’ claim was upheld. Therefore the Appeal Inquiry will have to be reheld, as if the first Inquiry had never happened. So, we go back to the Council Office for a second Inquiry from 8 August 2017. We plan to offer more or less the same arguments as previously, though of course we will take all the learning points we can from the experience of the first Inquiry.
 
For the second inquiry, it seems likely that, now the CSAP has been confirmed, the Land Supply will be significantly over 5 years, which is a strong feature in our favour. We also hope that our Neighbourhood PLan will be made, or substantially further along the process that at the first Inquiry. However, we still have to strengthen our case on Heritage and Landscape, we cannot rest on our laurels.
 
 

Please keep your diaries free for the period 8-12 August and make time to attend the Inquiry

 
 

Update January 2017

Robert Hitchens have submitted a claim to the Planning Court that the Inspector made an error in law when making his Decision based on the Inquiry. The Planning Court will decide if there is any merit in the claim. If they find there is no merit, then the Decision still stands. If they decide there may be merit in the claim, then the case (that there was an error in law made) will be heard in the High Court. If the High Court decides there was no error in law, then the Decision still stands. If the High Court decides the Inspector did make an error in law, then the first Decision will be set aside, and we will complete the entire Inquiry process again afresh, with a new Inspector.
 
We are currently in contact with the Planning Court and taking advice from a Barrister to ensure we remain fully engaged with this process. There is no role we can play, unless the Inquiry is re-opened, but of course we would want to know when and how things are progressing. This page will be updated when we get any further information, but this can easily be a 6 month process before setting an new Inquiry date, if it comes to that
 
 

The Background

Robert Hitchens, a development company, submitted a planning application for 500 houses a primary school and a range of other facilities to be built on the fields between the village and Barrow Farm, stretching behind the house on the B4069, up the the corner near Langley House.
 
Wiltshire Council confirmed that they would have rejected the application, had they been in a position to make a formal determination. Hitchens appealed this decision, and it went to a formal Planning Inquiry in October 2016.
 
The Langley Burrell Residents Association was concerned about this development because of the impact on traffic, the status of the village, and the impact on the landscape of the village. We applied for, and were given, Rule 6 status, which allowed us to participate in the Planning Inquiry on an equal basis with Hitchens and Wiltshire Council.
 
 

Preparation

Prior to the Inquiry, we had to submit formal documents, called Proofs of Evidence, which summarised the key points of evidence we wished to make to the enquiry. These Proofs of Evidence were limited solely to those reasons that Wiltshire Council had given for refusing the Application. The reasons given were lack of conformity with planning rules, no requirement under the 5 Year Land Supply, harm to the landscape, harm to heritage assets, traffic issues and the lack of a bus service plan.
 

We presented Proofs of Evidence on Traffic, Landscape and Heritage issues
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3-proof-of-evidence-of-traffic
 
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2-proof-of-evidence-landscape-value
 
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1-proof-of-evidence-village-identity
 
 

The Inquiry

The Inquiry took place in the Council Chamber with an Inspector from the Planning Inspectorate, a team from Robert Hitchens led by their Barrister Anthony Crean QC, and the Wiltshire Council team led by their Barrister, David Manley QC.
 
We met an unexpected challenge as soon as the Inquiry began. The evening before we started, a legal decision was published by an Inspector from an appeal hearing in Melksham. In this, the Inspector confirmed that the Wiltshire 5 Year Land Supply was not 4.98 years, as we had thought, but was 4.25 years. This was significant in a number of key ways.

  • A decision from an Inspector is legally binding, and with this one having been published only the day before, there was no reasonable prospect of being able to argue it was wrong in any way.
  • The legal position, if a Council is found to have less that a 5 year Land Supply, is that all other Planning Policy documents are immediately considered out of date. This means that although they are considered to exist, they carry less weight in arguing any case.
  • The weight that is given to other Planning Policy documents is directly related to the size of the ‘undershoot’ on the 5 year land supply. The larger the undershoot, the less weight is given to Planning Policy, and the more weight has to be given, by the Inspector, to allowing the Planning Application.
  • Therefore, from the first half hour of the Inquiry, the balance had tipped very much against us.
     
    At the Inquiry, we presented 5 documents
     
    An opening statement
     
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    A presentation on traffic issues
     
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    1-traffic-evidence-in-chief
     

     
    A presentation on village status
     
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    2-village-status-evidence-in-chief
     

     
    A presentation on landscape issues
     
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    3-landscape-value-evidence-in-chief
     

     
    And finally, a closing address
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    There was also a very detailed site inspection where we walked, with the Inspector across the whole site, and Kington Langley and Rawlings Green for comparison.

     
     
    The Inspector’s decision is here

     

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    In summary, against the odds and expectations, we won! Hitchens are not going to be allowed to build on the land between the village and Barrow Farm.