Report on the Village Green Application

A report on the inspector’s findings with regard to the Village Green application, from John Rudd, who made the application.

 

“The Council’s Licensing Committee last night decided, in line with the findings of the Inspector’s report, not to designate Station Rd site as a Village Green. However, at the meeting Cllr Jacqui Seymour did raise a number of issues in relation to that decision. She noted that although we clearly hadn’t convinced the Inspector on the wider usage of the site over the past 20 years (other than its use of formal/informal paths), nevertheless in comparison with the Village Green application for Sutton Hill, which was approved by the Committee the previous week, the process that the Station Rd application went through was in a different league. Whilst the two applications were not directly comparable, as the Sutton Hill application was not contested by the Council as land in its ownnership was excluded from the final approval and did not go through a Public Inquiry, the level of support for Station Rd, with over 300 people writing in to the Council, resulting in 47 formal witness statements and 33 witnesses cross examined (some extremely vigorously ending in tears) over 5 days by an eminent QC, was far in excess of the 50 people who had supported the Sutton Hill application, with only 17 witness statements. She drew attention to the light touch applied to issues of ‘neighbourhood’ (which was impossible to define in the Station Rd case – other than by people living in the surrounding area that made use of the site for informal recreation) and relatively low level ‘usage’ in the Sutton Hill case, and that this was clearly in stark contrast to the forensic examination undertaken by the Inspector at the Station Rd Inquiry, when a much greater number of people were clearly regular users of this very much valued site.

 

She also drew attention to the fact that the Council decided to appropriate the land for planning purposes after the Inspector had issued her Directions in order to undermine the Inquiry should the Inspector have found in our favour, a course of action which we were forced into challenging by issuing a claim for judicial review (which despite our request for a stay in proceedings until after the Inspector had issued her decision, the Council refused and are now pursuing the applicant for £4,500 in costs they claim to have incurred).

 

She also drew attention to the fact that the Council had paid an unqualified private business to carry out covert surveillance of people using the site (going about their lawful business) for 9 days over Easter last year, which was outside the 20 year period under review. On the basis of both the timing and the manner in which it was carried out, the Inspector had decided to give no weight to its flawed findings. She asked what the cost of this exercise was to a cash strapped Council.”

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