The Planning Inspectorate has indicated to EDDC that the decision will be issued on or before 31 January 2018.
Many people who couldn’t attend the Inquiry themselves due to work or other commitments, have asked for more information about it. So thank you to the correspondent who sent in this summary of his own experience of the process, and some reflections which we believe are widely shared, on where we are now:
‘The inquiry into the appeal by PegasusLife for their development of the Knowle site, which is supposed to pay for EDDC’s move to Honiton, has concluded with a site visit by the Inspector. The decision will not be known until early in the new year, but it is a good time to reflect on the process.
The overwhelming feeling has been that the Council’s barrister, still a junior in barrister terms, has had to fight against the developer’s QC, clearly one of the most experienced in the field, with one hand tied behind his back. At times it was akin to watching David take on Goliath.
The first obstacle was that the EDDC planning officers went back on their original decision and recommended that the scheme should be approved. Despite the strength of the arguments of local protesters which convinced planning committee rebels to vote against the leadership’s pet project, the developer’s QC kept using the officers’ opinions to chip away the defence.
Although two conservative rebels voted with concerned locals, the leadership of the planning committee managed to restrict the reasons for refusing the plans and this limited the problems the developers had to answer. Arguments about the town needing affordable homes and pressure on local services through even more pensioners moving in did not have to be countered.
Then we had the Council’s own defence which, to be kind, many interested parties regarded as poorly prepared. More than once the developer’s QC was able to exploit wrong information or the wrong document provided to the EDDC barrister.
The developer’s QC was backed by a team of expert witnesses who were well rehearsed and difficult to trip up. The Council’s barrister had a planning officer brought in from Cornwall, the EDDC officers were disqualified because they had recommended approval, and a heritage officer. The planning officer didn’t know the area and was playing catch up on the details of a very large and complex development, he didn’t stand much chance against the developers who had devised the scheme. The heritage officer was torn to pieces by the forensic questions of the QC, possibly because she had not had sufficient training in how to present evidence against a barrage of aggressive questioning.
Once again, local people and organisations marshalled arguments to have this gross over-development thrown out. We will have to wait for the outcome. If we have lost, the developer could walk off with massive profits and yet avoid any responsibility to pay an estimated sum of three and a half million pounds towards those affordable homes which East Devon needs so desperately.’