The first to speak was Mr Christopher Katkowski QC on behalf of Cheshire East.
The first three paragraphs of his statement in full:
“This is a test case for the Secretary of State as it is the first in decades to fall to be determined by Central Government where the key issue is protecting the integrity of the Lovell Radio Telescope, and with it radio astronomy at Jodrell Bank. As stressed repeatedly and it is common ground, the Lovell Radio Telescope is of international importance and protecting it and the work of the Observatory from harm is of global significance.”
“The Government has worked extremely hard to bring the global HQ of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) to Jodrell Bank; the SKA decided to have its HQ at Jodrell Bank because it is a world-class, operational observatory. “a key factor being that the [radio frequency interference] environment remains as benign as possible” (SKA Director-General). Allowing 119 homes to be built close to the Observatory, in the direction (to the south west of the Observatory) where the Lovell Telescope is deployed for much the time conducting its most internationally significant work (pulsar timing measurements) in circumstances where it is agreed that the internationally accepted definition of the threshold above which interference would be detrimental to radio astronomy would be exceeded to a very large extent by emissions from the proposed development, would run the clear and present risk of undermining the confidence of the SKA in its desire to be associated with Jodrell Bank. The point is not (as put by the Inspector) whether the work of the SKA’s HQ would be directly impinged upon by interference from the development – it would not. Rather the point is one of esteem, of pride through association, if the Government does not protect the host – Jodrell Bank – from avoidable harm to its work, then what message does that send to the SKA about the continuing wisdom of its decision to have its HQ at Jodrell Bank? The question answers itself but in the words of the SKA’s Director-General this “may well have a negative impact on the view of the UK as an international partner to projects such as the SKA.”
“The point about avoidable harm is an important one. There is nothing practicable that the Government or the Observatory can do to reduce the relentless increase in devices used by existing residents near to Jodrell Bank e.g. in Goostrey, or in the wider Consultation Zone around Jodrell Bank, which already, and will increasingly in the future, cause very real problems for the efficacy of the Lovell Telescope. BUT the Government does have the ability to stop new development adding to these problems; this can be achieved by the simple step of refusing planning permission e.g. for the appeal proposals which undoubtedly would amount to a very real additional threat to the globally significant work carried out at the Observatory.”
Mr Katkowski then became more technical, quoting policies and law and the NPPF and how these should be used in this case.
The protection of Swanwick Hall, a Grade II listed building was also a significant part of CEC’s defence in this appeal. Again using technicalities of law and quotes obtained from Gladman’s planner under cross examination Mr Katkowski showed that this alone should cause the appeal to be dismissed “come what may”.
The point that Cheshire East does not have a five year housing supply was not ignored, but he argued that the proposed development would only be a miniscule part of the solution to this problem and was not worthy of the harm that it would cause.
Then came the Parish Council’s barrister Mr John Hunter.
He presented similar arguments regarding Jodrell Bank but also explored the concern of precedent. “Whilst a concern about precedent was dismissed by the Twemlow Inspector, the fact that the decision is being relied on by the Appellant in this appeal is one of the ironies of the case.”
Similarly the matter of harm to the setting of Swanwick Hall was covered with an accusation of Gladman’s heritage evidence defying common sense. “The building is a farmhouse. It reads as such and, it its current open and still relatively isolated setting, allows one to appreciate the aforementioned historic associations with the surrounding field and the area. By contrast, when this part of its original setting is lost, those connections and even the building’s basic character as a historic farmhouse will be much harder appreciate.” The Parish Council heritage case however also included protection of the unlisted Heritage Asset Holly Bank Farm and the historic hedgerows which can been seen from Main Road.
Cheshire East were only allowed to defend the appeal on the reasons which were given at the original Planning Committee hearing. The Parish Council however had no such constraints, so John Hunter went on to speak about the significant impact on the views of Jodrell Bank and Swanwick Hall from Footpath 12.
But most significantly he was able to challenge the assertion that Goostrey is a sustainable location. “Therefore … even taking account of its rural context, the development would not:
* Be accessible for the local services required to support its needs and health, social and cultural well-being.
*Provide a “real choice” of sustainable modes of transport – on the contrary, it would inevitably depend predominantly on car use.
*Be located where the need to travel is minimised and the use of sustainable modes of transport can be maximised.”
A brief excursion into the loss of Best and Most Versatile agricultural land lead the remainder of his statement into technicalities of Planning law.
Finally Mr Richard Kimblin QC gave his statement on behalf Gladman Developments Ltd.
Unusually he preceded his statement by thanking the Parish Council for the way in which they had conducted themselves. (We are not sure what he was fearing they might get up to, or indeed what other Parish Councils do, but his kind words were appreciated.)
“A tenacious presumption in favour of the grant of Planning Permission”. This is a phrase which comes from a recent High Court Judgement and was applied to sites which sit in areas where there is no proven housing land supply. Mr Kimblin stressed that this should apply to this appeal and pointed out that development of this site would help to avoid the social ills which come with under provision of housing and give many economic benefits by supporting the construction industry. All “without effect upon ecology, biodiversity, the creation of a flood risk or any other material environmental effect. … Moreover, the above benefits would be achieved in a sustainable location.”
“The Councils, and particularly the District Council, are to be congratulated for the ingenuity and imagination which has been directed to their cases. Those cases are replete with novel, imaginative and bold points.”
He then went through many technical points of interpretation of law pointing out the fallacies in the Councils’ logic.
The much quoted policy PS10 was considered yet again. “Within the Jodrell Bank Radio Telescope Consultation Zone … development will not be permitted which can be shown to impair the efficiency of the Jodrell Bank radio telescope.” This might seem straight forward, but since there is already harm being done to Jodrell Bank by radio interference how much additional interference constitutes harm?
Mr Kimblin accused the three parties of using the Jodrell Bank issue for their own purposes.
“JBO is focused on one issue – observing and learning about space. It is not required to consider the effects of its preferred environment on the wider social, economic and simply basic needs of society.”
“Cheshire East lacks enthusiasm for residential development” – as demonstrated by its lack of housing land supply, an underestimation of need for housing in the preparation of the Local Plan, and strong track record of challenging decisions which inhibit its scope to refuse planning permission.
“As for the Parish Council, it and many people who spoke at the Inquiry object on any and all grounds to residential development in Goostrey.”
The Parish Council were also criticised for presenting all kinds of planning materials to the inquiry but not calling experts to be cross examined on these, whilst enjoying the luxury of cross examining Gladman’s witnesses. (Cllr Ken Morris might not have wholeheartedly agreed with this after undergoing Mr Kimblin’s cross examination!)
Swanwick Hall concerns were dismissed; partly because it was already close to the edge of Goostrey settlement but also because the main heritage interest are the hidden 17th century timbers.
So what happens now? The inquiry is complete. The Inspector will write a report summarising the arguments and making his recommendation. He does not have a deadline in which to do this, but hopes to finish it within five weeks. We don’t get to see this – it is sent straight to the Secretary of State for the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) for a decision. Mr Katkowski explained that the Secretary might take two months… or two years. The Inspector said “it will take a long time”. We will keep you posted!
(link to the morning session of Day 5)