As you know, the independent inspector made the unusual decision to hold an exploratory meeting ahead of the pre examination in public meeting on July 12th. This was because following his initial review of the Core Strategy the inspector had identified several “significant concerns”. These included the lack of quantifiable evidence to support the council’s housing provision, and the uncertainty of the required mitigation provision in the form of a Country Park. This has been identified previously by Natural England as an essential component of the suite of mitigation measures required to prevent damage to the European protected sites in the area – in particular by the allocation of 2000 houses at BT Martlesham.
SCDC’s initial response to the inspector’s questions did not satisfy him – SCDC had a second attempt in a letter dated 6th July which contained many new references and information. This letter did not appear on the council’s website until July 11th – the day before the meeting! This was singularly unhelpful to those wishing to participate in the meeting. A more cynical person may think that this was the reason for the delayed posting.
However, Mr Moore, as one would expect from an independent inspector, appeared to be scrupulously fair and was willing to hear all who wanted to speak. It was not an adversarial environment but Mr Ridley appeared to be very uncomfortable when trying to answer the inspector’s and participant’s questions and on several occasions SCDC’s barrister found it necessary to intervene on his behalf. The inspector remained unsatisfied with SCDC’s position. The inspector has therefore decided to temporarily suspend the examination in order to give SCDC a further opportunity to submit the evidence the inspector requires before the examination can continue.
In a very abbreviated form:-
- The inspector is not satisfied with the process or the evidence used by SCDC when it arrived at its housing “need” figures. He wants to see “the workings out” of the calculations.
- Mr Ridley indicated that he needed a further 2 weeks to be able to respond. Why? If the housing provision has been based on genuine “calculations” of housing need the Council should be able to provide “the workings out” of the so called calculation immediately – maybe they have lost the cigarette packet.
- In addition the inspector was still not satisfied that the Country Park mitigation is deliverable and has asked SCDC to provide much more detail on potential sites and likelihood of delivery plus timeframe.
- Another significant point worth mentioning is that the inspector is minded to modify the EiP agenda to dedicate a separate session to deal with the SEA issues. This is important as it is one of the grounds for the stayed JR action brought by WPC.
SCDC has been working on this document for 10 years at significant cost to the taxpayer. It has had numerous opportunities to address these self-same issues when they have been raised by objectors over the years but has consistently and aggressively refused to take seriously the concerns expressed by the public.
So, small steps, but in the right direction. We must now wait until SCDC has responded again to the inspector. Mr Ridley has assured the inspector that he does not understand why the most recent letter was not on the website but has undertaken to post all future correspondence onto the website on the day sent or received.