There is now great disappointment in the village that the venue for the Super Inquiry, due to start on 7 January 2014, has had to be moved from the Bowling Club to Flybe Training Academy at Exeter Airport.
Together with officers from EDDC and the chairman of Feniton Parish Council, I have been trying to ensure that the Inquiry will be held in Feniton, following the guidelines set out by the Planning Inspectorate that the venue should be as close as possible to the proposed development site. We have trolled up and down the village armed with tape measures to try and accommodate the very stringent needs of the various parties, to no avail.
The change has been brought about by Wainhomes expressing concerns that the venue in the village was of insufficient size (Question: How did they know this if they haven’t visited the venue? Does anyone know who is in direct contact with them?)
Their concerns were that members of the public, if they turned out in force as they have done whenever mass development has been discussed, would pack the Bowling Club and the Planning Inspector would be forced to adjourn. Were that to happen, they say, they would make EDDC liable for the costs of all parties. Officers at East Devon were obviously concerned about the potential waste of public money were this to happen.
The irony is that Feniton is an unsustainable location from a public transport perspective and the only means of transport to the new venue at Exeter airport is by car!
But what irritates me most is that we shall all be sitting at the FlyBe Training Academy in an artificial bubble in a swanky-pants venue, with megabucks-earning QCs, discussing a village which is being held together with BlueTak and sellotape.
I understand from Fight for Feniton that plans are afoot to transport residents who wish to listen in to the arguments on the future of their village to the Training Academy. Full details to follow, but everything possible will be done to make sure that people are not disenfranchised by this unfortunate turn of events.
A letter from the planning officer at EDDC follows:
Since the appeals were first lodged in respect of these proposals and more particularly when the appeals were subsequently conjoined it has been my intention to hold the Inquiry within the village. I recognise that this allows maximum access and participation to an event that affects the whole village. However the venue itself must be suitable in terms of size and facilities.
In light of both the Inspector’s requirements and the size of the respective teams that the developers and the Council will now be providing (this has become apparent after the exchange of proofs), we require a large venue to not only provide comfortable and appropriate accommodation for the teams but also for members of the public attending.
It is therefore with regret that the venue for the Inquiry has had to be changed from the Bowling Club in Feniton to the Flybe Training Academy at Exeter Airport. I have today visited the Training Academy and while I recognise that this is not as conveniently located as the Bowling Club for Feniton residents, it remains the closest available venue of sufficient size. Distance and accessibility has been a factor in our considerations and I can assure you that the choice of the Academy is the most suitable alternative.
I understand that this decision will not be popular but there are few alternatives. To continue with a venue that we now understand to be too small would risk an adjournment by the Inspector, the subsequent moving to an alternative venue in any event (away from the village) and the Council having to meet the wasted costs of the appellants for any delay.