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Queensway - Inquiry in Public

Queensway Inquiry in PublicA week tomorrow, on 24th November, one of the most important issues ever to affect Fylde - an issue with the potential to change the  character of Fylde, and especially the character of Lytham and St Annes, will be debated in an Inquiry in public held at the Bedford Hotel in St Annes.

Kensington's plan to build 1,150 houses on land off Queensway, which will take 80 ha of good agricultural land, and restrict the use of another 90 ha will be tested by both Fylde Council and the Queensway Environmental Defenders.

We gave our readers early warning of what might be coming back on 5th December 2007 where, in Fylde's State 2007, we showed how the Commissar tried to slip in a late question at his "State of the Borough" event.

Outside the prepared agenda for that meeting, he asked those attending to vote with their handsets if they thought it was a good idea to have a new road across the moss.

This was pretty typical of the man.

He asks for your view without telling you the facts, then says - well at the State of the Borough Meeting there was a substantial majority in favour

It was only when someone at the meeting spoke up and said - yes, but what's the cost of providing that road - another 300 houses on farmland? - that his real intention came out. He wanted more housing and more council tax income and he was trying to use a scurrilous vote on the road to justify it.

Then in September 2008 we broke the news of the launch of the Queensway Environmental Defenders group who set up to oppose inappropriate development - and in particular, Kensington's scheme to build 1,150 houses - on Lytham Moss just off Queensway.

We have watched this group establish a formidable reputation for cogency, accuracy and reliability. They have already forced Kensington to go back to the drawing board on wildlife matters and they are now preparing to challenge the main thrust of their arguments at the Inquiry.

We're hoping to bring our readers a summarised account of proceedings - as the debate unfolds - in a diary style counterbalance (as we did for Paul Hayhurst's Tribunal). A blank page called 'Inquiry Diary' has been readied to receive content when the Inquiry starts.

QED has (exceptionally) been granted what is known as "Rule 6 Status". This means at the inquiry they will be on a par with the barristers and teams from both Kensington and Fylde Council, able to present their own evidence and cross-examine witnesses.

This development is the biggest Fylde has ever seen. St Annes has an electorate of about 20,000. This would add another 2,000 at least. It would increase the population by about 10% and whilst it provides space for a school and some open space for recreation, it adds no additional doctors or dentists or shops or pubs or, well, you name it.

QED have issued a statement about the Inquiry which we are happy to reproduce. If anyone wants to go along in the first day, (Tuesday 24th November) they can both listen and give their own view on the plans for another 1,150 houses.

After the first day, people can come and go as they like to sit in and listen to the debate, but members of the public cannot make comment after the public session on the first day.

The inspector has announced that if anyone does speak he would like them to bring along a written note of what they say to hand in so he doesn't miss their arguments when he is considering the evidence after the Inquiry closes.

QED Statement:

In October 2008 the Kensington PT Partnership applied for planning permission to build 1,150 houses on land south of Queensway.

Kensington provided information about this scheme, but not enough to satisfy those agencies responsible for highways, nature, the environment and the airport, each of whom retained objections to the scheme.

Fylde Council pressed Kensington to produce the information these organisations required, but Kensington were unable or unwilling to provide it.

Kensington then decided to appeal to the Government because Fylde had not determined their application in the time allowed.

Fylde subsequently held a meeting to decide whether, based on the information they had been given up to that point, they would have approved or rejected the planning application. They decided they would have rejected it.

After Kensington appealed, the Government instructed an agency called the Planning inspectorate to hold an inquiry in public in St Annes.

They appointed an Inspector to take charge of the Inquiry and to produce the advice and recommendations that the Secretary of State will use to decide whether to grant the appeal that would allow Kensington to build the houses, or whether to dismiss the appeal.

The Inquiry starts on Tuesday 24th November at 10 am and will be held at the Bedford Hotel on Clifton Drive South, Lytham St Annes.

It will take about eight days. However it is expected to finish at lunchtime each Friday and, by convention, Mondays are not inquiry days, so the overall time will be approximately two weeks.

The present plans differ greatly from those Kensington displayed at its public exhibition on Kilnhouse Lane in December 2007. They have even changed quite significantly since September of this year.

On the opening day of the Inquiry, the Inspector will allow any member of the public who wishes to do so to have their say about the scheme for a few minutes if they attend at the Bedford Hotel at 10am and indicate a wish to speak when they arrive.

That first day will begin with opening statements from The Council, from QED, and from Kensington. Then the public will have their say, after which the meeting will go into the detailed evidence presented by each of the three main parties.

The inquiry remains open to the public for the eight or so days it will last, and anyone can walk in and sit down in the public area to listen to the arguments being made for and against. But after the first day, no one except the three main parties will be allowed to speak. You do not have to be there for the whole time, it is possible to attend for days or part days if you are interested.

Kensington and the Council will be represented by a barrister; QED will represent themselves on behalf of the community.

At the conclusion of the Inquiry the closing speeches will be made and the Inspector will take some time to digest and weigh up the evidence presented to him.

It is expected he will make a recommendation by 29th January, and the Secretary of State is expected to announce a decision at some point after that.

Dated:  16 November 2009


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