Thursday, March 04, 2010

Sadown Inquiry - A tough day awaits Sandy?

Decided to leave the typo in the title, subliminal perhaps?

Tomorrow Sandy does his bit in the witness hot spot. This untrained observer thought the Deveron legal wifie was scoring lots of points off the Council's planning witness today and I suspect the same treatment awaits Sandy.

Update 07.00 Friday morning:

A major article in the Courier this morning focuses on the arguments given by Dr Joan Noble against the Deveron transport survey claims and also focuses on what John Hart has to say. Recommended reading there Gurnites. We’ll let you know if it appears on line but an investment of 74p may be essential this morning.

Sitting listening to the Inquiry is often a worrying experience. One begins to realise how the failure to update the Nairn local plan has to a certain extent left the community’s defences down. In the hiatus between the local plan and the elements of the present consultation process for the Highland Wide Development plan there is a welter of other documents or pieces of government guidance that leave the developers plenty of opportunity to use in attempts to convince the reporter that their case is correct and jumps through all the legal hoops.

It seems a local plan should be reviewed every five years and since ours was conceived in 2000 it is plainly out of date. It is not set in tablets of stone too it seems, such a document can lose relevance whilst other pieces of information out there in the planning ether can gather more ‘material consideration’ and kudos about them. That is the dangerous ground where we all are today Gurnites. Have we been badly served by the Highland Council in this regard? A good question for the aftermath of this inquiry.

Much is made of another document called the ‘General Policies Annex’ that goes with the local plan and is a sort of Highland wide catch-all safety net of planning supplementary guidance (as far as this untrained observer can make out) that covers omissions from the local plans. The Residents of Water Lane obtained a copy of this Annex and made use of it during their campaign to stop inappropriate development, it did seem to have relevance to them. Deveron are making much of this Annex and also the ‘aspirations’ of the council through the Main Issues Report and the HWDP. It seems a bit of a morass and Deveron seem to be efficiently focusing on illuminating what they would obviously claim as the correct way out of it. As mentioned below it is a David and Goliath situation and the amateurs have to do their best to counter and fight the community’s corner. Eventually the Reporters will interpret events for themselves and, again from the public benches, it isn’t easy to understand how this will go. Yesterday for example I felt that the council’s planning expert Mr Pollock was mauled by team Deveron, others thought so too but there were some who thought he’d done well. He did seem to have a mantra of, ‘Yes that’s correct!’ Later on the Reporter seemed to be giving more focus to elements of previous questions from the objectors and one is inclined to take heart from that.

There are those who feel that in comparison with the Sainsbury’s Inquiry the amateurs this time are not getting such a fair deal. This is of course just perception but perception it is. Does the system mitigate against the amateur with the Reporter having to conclude with the appellant when they use ‘procedure’ to suppress pertinent questions from the floor that are deemed to be inappropriate? Does this negate a vital element of transparency in the eyes of the layman/woman. Just how much is the concern of a community weighed by the Inquiry process? How do we citizens get justice if we feel failed by the Council, their planners and other experts and failed by the developers? Is this sort of inquiry the ideal arena to seek that?

The Inquiry continues today, next up Sandy.

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