Day three at the Inquiry.
The day began with the inspector asking what progress had been made on the S106 agreement. Mr Village said that there were discussions last night and he was asking that the inquiry be suspended so that the agreement could be completed. Mr Village declined to supply any further details. The inspector reluctantly agreed to suspend the inquiry until 12 noon. All representatives then went into conference leaving the public assuming that they would agree something along the lines specified by Part B of the Planning Committee decision and that would be the end of it.
However, early signs of life returning suggested that they had NOT reached agreement. The inquiry re-started at mid-day and the inspector said she was waiting with baited breath to hear the outcome. Mr Village apologized for the delay but said it had no effect on the inquiry as there was no agreement! He offered no further comments and the public and the inspector remain in ignorance of what happened.
The inspector said she was a bit worried that the inquiry might overrun which would be a major problem as she already had commitments well into next year. She said she wishes the case of the Council and HE to end next week with the case for the appellants the following (final) week. She thinks the site visits will have to be arranged sometime after then. She asked Mr Village to pick up the pace a bit. Tomorrow (Day 4) we will start at 9.30 and end at 5.30pm. She then asked Mr Village if the above discussions were on-going and he said NO.
The inquiry then continued with Mr Village cross examining Paul Drury. A lot of this was a repeat of the first inquiry – harm verses public benefits (in terms of the buildings being preserved). There was reference to a recent case in the Appeal Court concerning Palmer (?) which was cited as a precedent concerning the balance of harm and benefit – to the advantage of the appellants. Also much more questioning concerning Para 140 in the NPPF and EN27A which was considered a commitment by TDC to work with the owners to repair the Priory. Again, much reference to the Council’s (unfair) change of direction in commissioning the Geddes report. Apparently this depends on the technical/legal definition of a ‘heritage entity’ which was discussed at length. Apparently there is a different acceptable approach to a commercial enterprise. Mr Drury tried to say that the Priory conforms to the ‘headline’ definition of a heritage entity although not the detailed criteria. Nevertheless, he argued that it is near enough to it to warrant being treated the Geddes way. Mr Village disagreed, pointing out that such a proposal had never been put forward before by the Council and had only come to light on 2nd November. He intimated he would try to get the Geddes report thrown out. Things got somewhat heated at this point and the inspector had to ask them to please keep it calm.
At some point some new figures produced by Dr Lee came to light. These apparently showed that the conservation deficit was now reduced to some £33million. Mr Village, assisted by Mr Sargeant, then attempted to prove that ALL the income from the enabling development (£7.336million) would be spent on the Priory and there was no money spirited away to an oversees account and not a single pound was unaccounted for. The public did not have site of any of these figures so remained at a loss to understand the argument. Again much argument ensued including the inability to carry out any additional repairs since ALL the money was accounted for and no more available. The existence of a Trust was mentioned as a way of raising additional funds. Unfortunately, there was no mention of the apparent limited scope of this trust or its lack of widespread support which is needed in order to raise substantial funds.
There was more time spent on the hierarchy of views and much pressure was applied to Mr Drury to get him to say the view from footpath 7 to the south (from the road leading to Smiths farm) was superior to any from the west (footpath 17 or 19) – into which the new houses would intrude – and endless study of photographs taken in various directions. Mr Drury stoutly refused to give way maintaining that the views showed different and equally important settings for the Priory and it was left unresolved. There was a repeated argument about the importance, or otherwise, of Darcy Tower as a ‘prospect’ tower and the harm caused by Earls Hall wind turbines which are, it was claimed, far worse than any small building development that could only be glimpsed from the tower.
Mr Village repeated his assertion (from previous inquiry and rejected by Mr Barton) that Mill Street is an undistinguished collection of mostly 20C buildings and of no historical or architectural interest. We trust the inspector will walk down Mill Street and make her own mind up.
At the end of the day, despite what was said earlier, Mr Village told the inspector that further negotiations would continue overnight (presumably concerning a S106 legal agreement).
Inquiry resumes at 9.30am Friday 18th November and may run until 5.30. Mr Drury to continue and Dr Lee.