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THE 2014 INQUIRY

The decision

The Inspector has dismissed Barwood's appeal against the WBC Planning Committee's refusal of outline planning permission for the second Chester Road application.

The Inquiry decision, announced 18th November 2014, is "Dismissed".

Here's the link to the relevant page on the Planning Inspectorate website: Planning Inspectorate decision.

You will see there a "decision" link to a PDF containing the Inspector's 20-page report.

The proceedings

The public inquiry into the second Barwood proposal for the Chester Road site, which began on Tuesday 30th September at the Redwell Leisure Centre, moved to Swanspool House on Wednesday 1st October, continuing there until its conclusion in the afternoon of Friday 3rd October. On the first day, the Inspector heard presentations by twelve third-party speakers, nine of whom were Save Irchester Village speakers. Mrs Pam Armstrong, Chairman of the Parish Council, made a presentation before our speakers were heard. Afterwards, Mr Tony Skipper was heard, and Ward Councillor Jon-Paul Carr made the final presentation.

Summary

After a good-humoured four days in which many issues both technical and emotive were considered in great detail, the Inquiry closed at 2pm on Friday 3rd October.

The Inspector was scrupulously fair in giving third parties such as the Save Irchester Village speakers the opportunity to make representations to the Inquiry.

The Inspector made a two-hour visit to Irchester on Thursday afternoon. He walked the site and the footpaths, and he viewed the site from many different viewpoints.

Closing the Inquiry, the Inspector said that he would be writing his report next week and his decision may be expected by the beginning of November. He has a great deal of documentation to digest, and he must ensure that his decision is consistent with those of other Inquiries.

Walkies with the Inspector

The Inspector did an accompanied walk around the village on Thursday afternoon, 2nd October. He also made two unaccompanied visits on other days. This is an account of the accompanied walk.

When your scribe tottered into the Bowls Club car park at half past three on Thursday, the Inspector was seated on the tailgate of his estate car lacing up a pair of trainers. He was in jeans and a tee-shirt. The Barwood crew had removed their ties and donned butch footwear, and the Save Irchester Village crew had reverted from their spiffy suits to their normal slovenly attire. Your slothful scribe, a dedicated indoors man, was much too warmly clad for the coming trek.

The silks did not attend, there being no sedan chairs in which to carry such exalted personages, but Barwood’s lady solicitor was there in a fetching pair of floral-patterned wellies.

While the Inspector was giving us all a little lecture on not discussing Inquiry matters in his hearing, your scribe was looking at that tee-shirt. His heart sank to see that it featured the map of a trek around Nepal, Sherpas and all. Oh gawd, he’s climbed Kanchenjunga! He’ll walk the legs off us.

Yes, the Inspector had been there, done that, and he really had got the tee-shirt. He was old, he was grey, but he was game and he looked all too athletic.

The party set off up St Katherines Way, with your ink-spattered scribbler glumly in the van. There wasn’t an actual van, unfortunately. It’s just an expression. We continued up the path and emerged with the cemetery on our right and a couple of horsies on our left. (That’s a technical term we countrymen use.) One of them snickered meaningfully. Can it, Dobbin!

We headed north, your ace reporter gamely clutching his bottle of Quink, and then struck out across the field in which Barwood wants to plant 149 houses. A bitter harvest.

When we reached the steps down into the Country Park, the Inspector told us we needn’t follow him: he was just going down there to take a look. Well, that’s what he said, anyway.

When he resurfaced, we all turned round and began to walk back towards the village, the Inspector halting several times to have a good look round and evaluate the views. On some technical pretext or other, the Inspector sent a couple of village blokes back to the point where we had first emerged into the field. He may have just wanted them to be friends (Inspector Middleton, the matchmaker!), or perhaps he thought they spoiled the view. There was a fair bit of arm waving once they were in position. Your scribe couldn’t make out whether they were crying for help or just waving at the passing wildlife.

The wildlife knows what’s coming, development-wise. We saw several squirrels wearing motorcycle helmets, and one owl had a gasmask in a cardboard box slung under one wing. The voles were all in hi-viz jackets and one even asked your wheezy scribe for a light. No chance, Voley! It’ll only stunt your growth!

We took the footpath to School Lane, admiring the view of the church on our left along the way. We turned right and went up into Baker Crescent and through to the recreation ground. Still heading west, we emerged beside Old Trafford stadium, whence we turned south down Alfred Street to reach the Wollaston Road. Goal!

Things now got more urban. The party headed towards the Co-op, turned left at the Post Office, and soon was back in Baker Crescent. This time, we descended into School Lane, crossed School Road and ankled down Sharwood Terrace, admiring the pretty gardens. In no time at all, we were on Station Road’s narrow north side footpath and climbing in indian file towards Rushden.

By now, your inky-fingered amanuensis was flagging. Through a haze of perspiration and self pity, he dimly discerned the eastern exit from Arkwright Road. Somewhere a synapse fired, a neuron convulsed, an axon er... aksed... and he realised that he lived there. As the Inspector and the rest of the party strode blithely on towards the railway bridge, to walk all the way around the fields on the north side of Station Road to rejoin the High Street, your shattered Sherpa slunk off home to rest his aching dogs and drink copious amounts of tea.

The things we do for Irchester! After that ordeal, Barwood is welcome to the place.

THE SUPPLY OF LAND

During the Inquiry, the Inspector formed a contrary view to the one expressed in the following article posted 18th June 2014. In his Appeal Decision, he devoted paragraphs 29 through 45 to his reasoning. He concluded that the Borough Council of Wellingborough did not have a five-year supply of land.

BOROUGH COUNCIL OR WELLINGBOROUGH ACHIEVES FIVE-YEAR SUPPLY OF LAND

One of the arguments that developers in the Borough of Wellingborough (including the recent appeals in Irchester) have put to Planning Inspectors is the fact that the Council did not have a 5 year supply of deliverable land for housing and that their plans should therefore be approved.

That is, until the 12th June 2014, when recent revisions by Planning Officers at the Council revealed that the Borough of Wellingborough now has a 5.7 year supply of deliverable land for housing.

The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) requires all local authorities to identify and update annually a supply of specific deliverable sites sufficient to provide five years worth of housing requirement. The NPPF states that where planning authorities cannot demonstrate a five-year supply, the relevant planning policies for the supply of housing should not be considered up-to-date and the "presumption in favour of sustainable development" should apply.

This means granting consent for applications for housing unless the adverse impact of doing so would "significantly and demonstrably" outweigh the benefits. The ability by the Borough Council of Wellingborough to identify a five year supply of deliverable housing is therefore significant when the Borough Council deals with planning applications for housing.

An interim Housing Statement on Housing Requirements in the North Northamptonshire Housing Market Area was adopted by the North Northamptonshire Joint Committee on 9th January 2014 and by the Borough Council of Wellingborough on 25th February 2014.

This Interim Housing Statement sets out targets that are the basis for the calculation of housing land requirements across North Northamptonshire pending the submission of the revised North Northamptonshire Joint Core Strategy (JCS). The housing supply situation for the Borough of Wellingborough was last reported to the Council's Development Committee on 4th February 2014. Since that date another year's monitoring figures have been completed and this assessment has now been updated.

The latest assessment shows that there has been a significant increase in residential completions and in addition to this a 5.7-year supply of deliverable housing can now be demonstrated.

These revised figures will be used by the Borough Council of Wellingborough in the forthcoming planning appeals in Bozeat (July 2014), Earls Barton (August 2014) and Irchester (September 2014).

A PDF of the assessment report may be downloaded from the Borough Council of Wellingborough's website: Five Year Supply Report June 2014

Nevertheless, the four principal villages in the Borough of Wellingborough (Irchester, Wollaston, Earls Barton and Finedon) will still be required to have some form of housing developments to meet the future population needs of their respective communities.

In the Parish of Irchester this future housing need is being investigated by the Irchester, Knuston and Little Irchester Neighbourhood Plan team, who are working in consultation with the community on a plan for the parish until 2031 to meet housing and community requirements.

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NEIGHBOURHOOD PLAN STAGE TWO CONSULTATION

In September 2015, the second consultation was undertaken. Residents were invited to choose between three options to meet Irchester's additional housing requirement over the next twenty years: 150 dwellings in the land beside Austin Close, 150 dwellings on land south of James Street, or 75 dwellings in each of these two locations.

NEIGHBOURHOOD PLAN STAGE ONE CONSULTATION

In June 2014, consultation was undertaken on aspects of the Neighbourhood Plan. The key question covered aspects of direction of development growth within the Parish of Irchester that residents would prefer.

A hard copy of the consultation document with pre-paid return envelope was delivered to every home within Irchester, Knuston and Little Irchester.

A questionnaire was attached to the consultation document which would help shape the plan. The deadline for its return was 12 noon on Monday 30th June 2014.

Consultation evenings, where residents could discuss informally any ideas with the Neighbourhood Plan Consultants and members of the Steering Group were held at Irchester Library on Wednesday 18th June, 4pm-7pm, and Thursday 26th June, 4pm-7pm.

The results of the Stage 1 Consultation are now available on the Irchester, Knuston and Little Irchester Neighbourhood Plan website

To download a copy of the consultation document, click this icon PDF icon but please note that the consultation period has passed and it's now too late to submit the questionnaire.

Alternatively, you may prefer to visit the Irchester, Knuston and Little Irchester Neighbourhood Plan website

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TECHIE STUFF

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