Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Rest of the Public Inquiry April 22 - 24 2009

Here is an article about the Inquiry published on Tuesday 22 April in the South Wales Echo.
To continue the week’s progress, (RCPT) Ruperra Castle Preservation Trust’s evidence and questioning took the whole of Wednesday, mostly due to the Appellant’s barrister’s insistence on wasting everybody’s time by quibbling, for example over the credentials of the expert witnesses, a process very insulting to professionals giving their opinions based on their research and knowledge The Inspector had constantly to request him to keep to the point.

Thursday saw the last of RCPT’s evidence and questioning and Cadw and the Ancient Monuments Society followed. RCPT’s Quantity Surveyor made a heroic effort to attend on Friday morning having been quite seriously ill earlier in the week. Again his expertise was questioned but he rose superbly to the occasion, causing the barrister for Caerphilly County Council to say in his closing submissions later that he would much prefer to trust the Q S’s financial calculations than those of the Appellant’s financial adviser.

The rest of Friday morning was taken up with sending for the Appellant’s solicitor to attend to verify that the Appellant’s Company which had signed the agreement with the County Council for the Section 106 Conditions, did in fact still exist. The Inspector then proceeded as quickly as possible through the Conditions.

Then an application for costs was put in by the Appellant’s barrister claiming that his client had been led to believe that both the Local Authority and Cadw had been in favour of the housing proposals which had been turned down by the Planning Councillors through the lobbying of a small group. Again the Council’s barrister replied that the reasons for refusal had been on planning grounds in accordance with the County Council’s Unitary Development Policy and that this was how democracy worked. Members of RCPT will surely be glad to hear that the Council’s barrister also said the ‘small lobbying group’ was not simply a local pressure group but a well established Charitable Trust who had gained the support of five national experts to appear for them.

He also said that the Appellant’s agent could have put together the same expert team as RCPT had, to prove their case. The agent had not required the attendance of the Appellant’s architect, structural engineer or financial adviser to give evidence. He said that it 'beggared belief that the Appellant could now put in such a claim for costs.’

Although the Appellant’s barrister had typed up and photocopied his request for costs from the County Council in good time, he had not, unlike all the other barristers and advocates prepared his final statement in time for the last session and had to give the Inspector a handwritten copy. And throughout the week while complaining that he had not received various documents from other participants, did not in fact provide at the right time, several that the Inspector had particularly asked for.

The whole week was extremely interesting and indeed entertaining most of the time. RCPT were really pleased to see so many supporters. Many said that they had attended each day because it was so exciting and although not really intending to at first they had become so enthralled that they didn’t want to miss anything! RCPT’s barrister was superb and seemed to enjoy the week as much as everyone else!

The Inspector will be sending his report to the Minister in seven weeks' time. Then we will have to wait until she has made her decision. We hope to send out a more detailed account of the proceedings to the members of RCPT in due course.

The barristers/advocates of all the opposing Status 6 (6) groups in the Inquiry requested that the Inspector should reject the appeal and were united in their reasons, which we all surely know by now, but here is a list.

Harm to the historic setting and countryside
Harm to the setting of the listed glasshouse and historic gardens
Lack of detailed surveys in the application particularly archaeological
Introduction of inappropriate features on the site – tarmacked roads, urbanised gardens, street lighting, general fragmentation of the site.
No details of the design of the houses.
No programme for immediate remedial work particularly to the Castle.
The owner hadn’t looked at any other options except enabling development.

To finish, some memorable quotes –
The Appellant’s agent describing the proposed houses one each side of the listed grade II glasshouse to be like bookends supporting it.

The same agent describing the new ponds to the south of the Castle which will harm important archaeology as ‘two dimensional’ and therefore of no threat.

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