Well, that was weird.
I am of course talking about the Appeal for 81 additional houses at Elborough Bridge on the edge of the parish, between Mouldon View and Ridgeway Farm. This Appeal was first started in early 2019 but this was adjourned until further information was submitted by the developer.
It seems that the application is now for 79 rather than 81 houses and discussions were supposed to centre on suitability of location, five-year housing land supply, ecology and amenity. An early point that was made by the developer was that this is to satisfy Swindon’s housing need rather than any Wiltshire requirement, something which the Wiltshire Counsel pounced on, arguing there that was no merit in discussing Swindon housing. The barrister for Wiltshire also noted that while the Council has to provide for 10000+ houses for the period up to 31 March 2023, it already has room for 11000+ houses. The developer said there was only identified space for 9600+. So, that is something to be debated with legal argument during the coming days.
Councillor Jacqui Lay read out a statement from the Purton Parish Council and her own statement. I also read a statement focusing on what the neighbourhood plan had to say. The developer’s barrister declined to cross–examine.
Then it got interesting…
The site in question is part of a designated wildlife site and the development is set to destroy 50% of grassland, whilst disturbing otters, water voles and protected bats species (notably, Bechstein’s bat).
The barristers then started arguing about what they thought they had agreed upon earlier regarding the designation of the wildlife site, more particularly the “value”, ecologically-speaking, of that site. The developers’ barrister was trying to undermine the designation by saying it was not that good and the Wiltshire barrister was maintaining it was designated and so one could not argue about its relative merits. It was a designated site end of…
So we adjourned for a while whilst they discussed this. They returned and said they need more time and we adjourned again. They could not resolve it and so we took an early lunch. They returned and wanted a few more minutes… adjourned… and then in the end the Inspector deferred the ecology discussion to next week when relevant persons could be available.
Meanwhile we could not proceed because relevant persons for the other topics obviously were not present, thinking today was for ecology.
By now it was 2 pm. So, it all starts again tomorrow on some new topics.
Happy New Year by the way….