SO, AS looked increasingly likely all morning, the planning inquiry into Bridport’s biggest development scheme for 30 years was stopped before it ever got properly going.
Late on in the afternoon, planning inspector Simon Rawle decided that landowners Haywards did not have the right to appeal against West Dorset district councillors’ refusal to allow them to redevelop St Michael’s Trading Estate and South West Quadrant land surrounding it.
In very simplified terms, the reason given was that links between West Dorset District Council and Haywards meant that an appeal could not be heard without breaching planning regulations.
The cost of the now-aborted appeal is estimated to be nearly £10,000. Work on failed planning applications may have cost more than £300,000.
Peter Atfield, a consultant to Haywards, asked for his reaction to the squashing of the appeal, said: “It’s nothing printable.” He added that something would still have to be done about the state of St Michael’s trading estate, as it could not be allowed to continue as it was.
Bridport-based district councillor David Tett, a consistent supporter of regeneration plans for the South West Quadrant, said: “I am very disappointed. It’s put the whole process back several years to the detriment of the town and townspeople.”
He thought it was a shame that arguments for and against Haywards’ proposals did not get fully aired.
“To disallow the appeal just because of legal arguments – that doesn’t help anyone,” he said. Asked about what might happen in future, he replied: “I fear the worst.”
Artists who led the fight against what was planned said they too were “disappointed” not to be given a chance to put arguments with months of work and masses of conviction behind them. “We would have creamed it,” said Andrew Leppard.
But Mr Leppard also said that he felt sorry at the way things had turned out for Norman Hayward, whose family was noticeably angered by today’s unexpected turn of events.
Mr Leppard added: “I think the whole community now has to work with Haywards and the district council to come up with a more community-based approach, to increase the economy, the activity and the value of the land.”
ABOUT 40 people turned up this morning for the start of the appeal into Bridport’s historic South West Quadrant, which includes St Michael’s Trading Estate.
They heard more than two hours of abstruse but often intellectually exciting debate about whether the planning inquiry – scheduled to last at the Park Dean Holiday Park in West Bay until Friday – should be allowed to proceed.
Landowners Haywards are appealing against West Dorset district councillors’ refusal to grant permission for redevelopment work including 175 new homes, and revamped business opportunities.
Haywards twice applied for permission for this scheme with West Dorset District Council (WDDC) , and it is the terms and repurcussions of that arrangement that were debated this morning and will be discussed again this afternoon.
Potentially the appeal could be stopped before it has even properly begun.
In very simplified terms, much hinges on whether WDDC should be regarded as a developer or not. WDDC said this morning it should, because (for example) even if it never planned to undertake any building work itself, “development is not just the physical manifestation and execution of that, it is the process that is gone through.”
If WDDC is regarded as a developer, planning regulations bite, and the appeal should be declared invalid.
But Haywards said this was unfair, because WDDC “invited and persuaded” Haywards to work with them, with Haywards understanding that regulations would not bite because the two parties remained essentially independent. As such Haywards should retain their indepedent right to appeal and the appeal should be declared valid.
The scheme being proposed is the biggest in Bridport for at least 30 years. Hundreds of livelihoods could depend on what the planning inspector Simon Rawle decides later today – or perhaps even tomorrow, such is the intensity of the debate.
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