As you probably know RBWM finally published the letter from the Inspector following up on the Borough Local Plan stage 1 Hearings on 31 July 2018. But you may be feeling a little confused about what the letter actually means.
On the one hand Councillor Coppinger tweeted: “We are pleased the Inspector has asked to proceed to the next stages of the local plan examination” but the tweet, just like the Borough’s positive sounding press release, was quickly and quietly deleted. By way of complete contrast the news story in the Maidenhead Advertiser made it clear that the Inspector, Louise Phillips, had written to the council to ask for parts of the plan to be clarified and said she had not reached ‘firm conclusions regarding the soundness and legal compliance’ of parts of the plan.
We thought you would like to know what RRAG thinks about all this and what follows is a brief guide to what we consider to be the KEY things in the Inspector’s letter that you really need to know. ………and by the way the fight is most definitely NOT over and we are NOT giving up on holding the borough to account. Not now - and not any time soon.
Let’s start by putting it into context: the Examination in Public was stopped by the Inspector on the third day, the Borough were instructed not to do any more work (other than work already agreed during the Hearings), and the four legal opinions presented by QC’s during the course of the Hearings had clearly had a real impact on the Inspector. She said then that she needed to go back to the Inspectorate and take advice before determining the next steps.
2.The Inspector expresses her hope that there may be a second stage of Hearings later in the year – but this is by no means guaranteed and clearly depends in part on the adequacy of the Borough’s responses to the questions she raises in her letter.
3.The Inspector has NOT yet reached conclusions about the soundness and legal compliance matters considered in the Stage 1 Hearings. Her decision on these matters is crucially important and could yet result in the Plan being declared unsound.
4.One of the issues concerning the Inspector is the outcome of a particular Judicial Review concerning the Epping Forest District Council Local Plan. Just for background the decision on this was due the same week as the Hearings and it was raised as a matter of importance by the Barrister acting for RBWM (who also happened to be the Barrister acting for the defendant in the Epping Forest DC case, funnily enough). Regardless of the specific issue at stake here – which is broadly the process RBWM used to determine that its Local Plan was ‘sound’ and ready for examination – it is incredibly important to us because it has provided the opportunity to submit further comments. The Inspector has invited the representors who made legal submissions at the Hearings, which includes the 13 groups under the RRAG umbrella who were represented by Peter Lerner, to make further representations in the light of the Epping Forest judgement. We cannot stress enough how unusual it is for something like this to happen in the course of an Examination – and we are delighted. We are still in the game!
5.Apart from the Epping Forest judgement the questions the Inspector raises relate to issues that were not sufficiently clarified or resolved during the Stage 1 Hearings. Of these one of the most critical is a request for the borough to show how proposed development sites in an area of high flood risk are justified particularly in the light of concerns raised by the Environment Agency (EA) following a strategic flood risk assessment. Sites allocated for areas of high flood risk must pass an ‘exception test’, which shows how that risk will be managed. The Inspector makes it clear in her letter that she is not yet satisfied that sites without a safe access/ egress are capable of passing the exception test at the allocation stage.
Finally – our take on this is that things are not as cut and dried as the Borough might like to think. We are delighted to have another opportunity to have our say, which is in large part down to the fact that we had such high-powered legal advice from our QC John Hobson.
We continue to be totally committed to doing the best job we can to represent the interests of residents and that means continuing to seek legal advice when it is absolutely necessary. It has paid dividends for us over the course of the fight so far – and you know what is coming next!
Thank you SO MUCH to everyone who has donated so far - but once again we have to appeal to your generosity, and ask for anyone who has not yet fulfilled their pledge to do so. And pass the hat to friends and neighbours please.
The last three days of the Stage 1 Examination in Public of the Borough Local Plan have been incredibly intense. Despite the heat, and the distraction of football matches eating into our preparation time, the RRAG team feels that we have done the best we possibly could to bring to the Inspectors attention all the critical issues that we fully documented in our Reg 19 submission statement and subsequent statements. Of course we have had the benefit of superb legal and professional advice and guidance from John Hobson QC and Peter Lerner our planning consultant and we fully acknowledge that it would have been very difficult to have done this without either of them. Representatives from each of the Groups under the RRAG umbrella were also there to participate in the hearings and make statements. It is fair to say that they came over as being both very knowledgeable about the key issues and also passionate about getting the best plan possible for our area – and it was also wonderful to see the friendly faces of so many RRAG supporters. THANK YOU to everyone who made the effort to attend.
At the end of the session on Thursday afternoon the Inspector determined that it would not be necessary to continue the hearings on the additional day provisionally scheduled for next week. We anticipate that there may be some indication of what will happen next towards the middle/end of July. As this is a legal process it would not be appropriate for us to comment on what happened in the Hearings in any detail. However we did get the opportunity to make a statement about the status of the Group and make it clear that we are 100% resident led and resident backed with no outside funding sources. Rest assured we are not going to stop representing resident’s views and interests until the job is done.
On that note – the professional advice and guidance from which we have benefited does not come cheap, nor should it, but it does have to be paid for. So PLEASE if you made a funding pledge we would be so grateful if you can now honour it. Even if you didn't initially make a pledge we would appreciate any donations. Details of how to make a pledge payment or a donation to RRAG are outlined below.
Following on from the John Hobson QC advice that we shared with you yesterday emphasising on "RBWM's many errors"and respectfully called for the non-adoption of this legally unsound plan, we would also like to tonight share with you the QC's advice on the serious flaws in the Sustainability Appraisal undertaken by RBWM. The advice therefore states that the Inspector should be invited to suspend the proceeding, a full version of this advice is available here.
We are SO grateful for all the support and encouragement residents have given us since we started this fight for a better Borough Local Plan. As you will know today is the first day of the first stage of the Examination in Public of the deeply flawed BLP. Representatives from all 13 groups involved in opposing the BLP are in the Council Chamber to have their say on your behalf.
We have taken professional advice and have been working with a planning consultant who will take the lead in representing the group at the Hearings – and we have also taken legal advice from the same leading QC who initially helped us to get the Council to fulfil their legal obligations and give residents additional consultation time at the Regulation 19 stage last year. You can read the Statement re; Duty to Cooperate from John Hobson QC here.
Getting high level professional help at this stage is essential to ensure we present the best possible case for all the residents we represent – but it means we have incurred substantial costs and we now need to ask everyone who has pledged cash support to make good their promise and pay the pledged amount.
After 5 months of continuosly asking the Council, on 23rd April, we finally received some "non-answers" to our questions on affordable housing. The "non-answers" provided by the Head of Planning Jenifer Jackson are available here to view in full.
Our Concerns on affordable housing remain the same; If Council are serious about delivering affordable housing then why are Key Considerations on Housing site Proformas in the BLP not including Afforsable Housing.
It has been claimed that having an approved Borough Local Plan will somehow ‘protect’ against planning applications like the recent application to develop Claire’s Court. Cllr Coppinger, the Lead Member for Planning, spoke on this topic at the ‘Cox Green says NO’ meeting held on the 30 January 2018, stating that there is a golden opportunity for developers in this window before the BLP is approved.
Unfortunately, Cllr Coppinger’s argument is as unsound as the proposed Borough Local Plan: just to be clear, an approved Borough Local Plan will NOT stop developers from applying to build, the only thing a BLP might do is to prevent a developer relying on the lack of a 5-year housing supply as a reason to permit development. This argument is usually made in relation to windfall site applications, rather than applications in Green Belt.
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Maidenhead Golf Club
One of the sites proposed for 2,000 units under the
The BLP will change the
character of our Bourough beyond