The planning decision had been clear, very popular, and democratically arrived at by the elected members. Twice. But some time later, the unsuccessful party, driven by self interest, chose to go against the will of the majority and challenge the planners to get the decision overturned.
To deal with this dissident minority, the council has to assemble a legal team at great expense, headed by a barrister and drawing on evidence from 'expert' professional witnesses. Likewise, the self-interest group get themselves a QC plus a team of advisers. A venue is hired for the hearing, which will be in public. There's plenty to be said: this will take at least four full days, maybe more.
But the Bristol Post (in whose distribution area all this controversy is happening) ignores it. No headlines about 'spitting in the face of democracy' or 'holding Bristol to ransom'. There's no orchestrated vilification of anyone. This time, it has nothing to do with Sainsburys and only a very tenuous link with Rovers
Yesterday was the first day of the appeal into BaNES' rejection of a bid to build over the green belt between Stockwood and Whitchurch village, and it was held at the Bath City ground, Twerton Park, before a Planning Inspector, Mike Robbins. He'll eventually report his findings to that localisation hero and champion of the Green Belt, Eric Pickles. Expect a final decision sometime in the spring.
At some stage in the hearings, the Inspector will be doing a site visit. He'll find it's been prepared for him... the usual rough grazing and wildlife-rich hedgerows have been harshly cut back in anticipation, so that it looks less like real countryside
The first day saw introductions and explanations, opening statements from the two sides, and an examination of the landscape impacts of the proposed development. It was notable mostly for what his website describes as “the pure theatre of his cross-examination “ performed by the appellants' Anthony Crean QC – a silk who's evidently in high demand, and usually from the rich bad guys. It was uncomfortable theatre, too – he could switch between bullying, patronising, warmth and anger almost within a single sentence, in his efforts to confuse and break down his witness. Not nice.
The hearings will run from 10 till 5 or later for the rest of the week, and maybe stretch into next week. They won't be looking at the scheme for 295 houses that originally got turned down by BaNES - this is about a revised 'concept plan' with a 'mere' 200 homes, which the developers have introduced since. It goes straight into the appeal/Pickles stage without first having being tested by local councillors.
Lunchbreak nostalgia.... Stockwood Pete's first visit to Twerton Park since 1952 (when Southend United lost 3-1 to City in the cup)
[Meanwhile, Horseworld's application to build a new estate and visitor centre has been delayed while BaNES sorts out its housing allocations for the area. The Bristolian has plenty to say about that one]