Yesterday was the last day of the CALA appeal to build 68 houses north of the Woodstock Road. SUSTO, the Parish Council and the AONB Conservation Board (the joint Rule 6 Party) have done their best to put the case to the Inspector that this development should not be permitted. The decision of the Local Plan Inspector six months ago to have the site removed from the Plan and the District Council’s subsequent planning committee decision to refuse permission should be upheld.

CALA of course brought in a crack team of lawyers and expert witnesses, at no doubt vast expense, to argue the opposite. We now have to wait six to eight weeks to find out the Inspector’s ruling.

I thought you might like to read Jim Astle’s closing statement on behalf of the Rule 6 Party to the appeal. Here are just a few extracts to give you a flavour. AC refers to Andrew Cairns, CALA’s QC.

  • The more vicious and more deceptive “untruth” which recurs throughout ACs’s evidence is the fiction of the “urban fringe environment” (AC 9.14), the “harsh urban edge,” the “harsh peri-urban edge.” A cursory site visit will have established that there is nothing “urban” about the fringe of the village, the village itself or the surrounding countryside. The language is a perversion of the reality and does not succeed in raising the spectre of an unpleasant quality which would be improved by the proposed development. … There is little of the “twee” about Stonesfield but a fortiori there is nothing “urban,” “peri-urban” or “harsh.”
  • Orwell would have taken interest too in the suggestions at 10.51 and 10.53 that the “green infrastructure” would significantly increase biodiversity and would be of benefit to combating climate change in terms of carbon dioxide. Richard Morris, who has for some years had responsibility for the rather more extensive “green infrastructure” which is Stonesfield Common … gave evidence of his calculations that to offset the carbon emissions consequences of the number of car journeys likely to result from the proposed development approximately 1593 trees would be necessary!
  • 1984 persists with the lyrical suggestion at AC11.16 and elsewhere that “the AONB washes over the entire settlement of Stonesfield and includes the modern residential neighbourhoods immediately to the south of the site namely, Charity Farm together with others on the perimeter of the settlement(s) elsewhere.” It is suggested that these modern developments contribute to the natural beauty of the AONB “in the round.” “With the proposed residential properties reflecting the local vernacular of residential properties in the settlement ….. the natural beauty of the wider surrounding area would remain and prevail with the appeal scheme in place.” At 12.33 we are told “The architecture of the new houses would reflect the local vernacular” and “the resultant net effect of the scheme would be to conserve and enhance the natural beauty at the local level within this peri-urban environment of Stonesfield.”
  • The notion that a few square metres of public open space and a short narrow footpath from nowhere to nowhere in a suburban development on the fringe of the village will “improve the recreational opportunities for local members of the public” who currently have access on stepping outside their doors to hundreds of miles of breathtakingly beautiful footpaths in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty would be laughable, did it not have the sinister overtones of piecemeal destruction of just that Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
  • AC attempts to justify what he asserts to be the “benefits” of the appeal scheme. It is submitted that in each and every case his assertions are unsupported by evidence and without substance and in some cases are pure sophistry.

It is submitted that on the evidence before the Public Inquiry: –

  • there are no exceptional circumstances in the public interest to justify this major development in the AONB;
  • the appeal proposal would not amount to sustainable development;
  • the harm caused by the proposed development would overwhelmingly exceed any benefits, of which there are few if any;
  • the appeal proposal would not be in accordance with the local development plan or any other material consideration;
  • the appeal should therefore be dismissed.
Lastly a big thank you to everyone in the village who has written letters objecting to this proposal, to the Parish Council for joining us in this fight and paying for expert witnesses, the whole of the SUSTO committee who have worked hard in various ways over the past three years and especially Jim Astle for leading us at the appeal – we couldn’t have done it without you. I’m afraid we now have to just sit and wait ……

Richard Morris
Chair of Sustainable Stonesfield