Most residents will be aware that the time for letters opposing the London Irish applications expired on 11th May but we have not been idle. Just before the bank holiday Jubilee weekend LOSRA, SOLID and HAG met with the Head of Planning Policy and the Senior Planning Officer before she had begun her report with recommendations.
We were not given a steer as to which way the SPO would incline her report, nor did we expect one, but we were given two valuable hours in which to make the case for opposition to both The Avenue applications and the Hazelwood Golf Course. The recently published National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) was central to the discussion as were the reports of the Planning Inspector and Secretary of State following London Irish's unsuccessful appeals.
Much of the discussion centred on the contrasting interpretation of the NPPF which has not yet been tested on appeal or at the High Court. Put simply this means that there is no precedent to which either we or the SPO could refer for guidance. Not surprisingly our take on the NPPF did not correspond exactly with that of the Head of Planning Policy; and the NPPF is nuanced in such a way as to bring to mind Shakespear's "the devil can cite scripture for his own purpose". Nevertheless, our points were put as powerfully as we could and it now remains to be seen whether they have succeeded in persuading the SPO to recommend refusal of The Avenue applications. The representations in respect of The Hazelwood Golf Course centred exclusively on additional and very exacting conditions to which the SPO gave very careful attention but, again, without any indication as to the weight she would give the evidence presented to her.
The Planning Committee will consider the applications on Thursday 21st June.