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Wesham: Call to Arms

Wesham: Call to ArmsWe went to another public meeting at Wesham this week to hear the latest about WAG's plans to contest the proposal by Metacre to build 100 homes on land near Mowbreck Lane - an application that was refused by Fylde Council on 12th September 2012.

Someone at the meeting suggested that the 100 number had particular relevance because developments of less than 115 houses are not able to be called-in by the Secretary of State (Rt Hon. St Eric Pickles MP). So in this case it will be the Planning Inspector who decides.

We've covered Metacre's various applications on this land ad-nauseaum and detailed most of them in Wesham Home Truths and provided contrasting plans in Wesham Again

It makes you wonder how long the residents of Wesham are going to have to take these continued applications when it is abundantly clear the local community does not want this land developed. Fylde's Development Management Committee had the right idea when they decided not to consider the latest application submitted by Metacre. The only difference between that application and the one the Committee had refused three weeks before, was a promise not to submit a further application for three years.

And the officers 'fell' for that, claiming it to be a new application until they had to back down.

It's obvious to anyone who looks into this matter, there are powerful and influential forces at work behind the scenes in planning trying to bring about an approval on this site. It's yet another instance of power being focused in too few hands with portfolio holders and politics apparently playing too great a role in planning applications as opposed to the formulation of planning policy.

The Development Management Committee *is* a Committee. It is not the single-party politically driven Cabinet. It is a group of Councillors with diverse views, elected by, and representing their constituents. They are more in tune with the Fylde electorate than with a controlling political party, and they keep saying "NO" to development on this land. And we say power to their elbow.

So what went on at the latest public meeting at Wesham?

Well (the now battle scared but seasoned campaigner) Andrea Galbraith said that once again they have achieved Rule 6 status for the Public Inquiry which is scheduled to take three, possibly four, days and begins on 19th February.

The good news is that this time it is being held in the Community Centre on Church Road in Wesham - so it should be more convenient for Wesham folk to attend.

Andrea said she and her team had prepared and submitted Proofs of Evidence, and were now preparing cross-examination for the other side's expert witnesses.

We know from practical experience how hard this is to do. The inquiry performs very formally, like a court and for the most part a barrister calls experts to give their evidence and be cross examined on it. Having said it's like a court, it is a much more informal setting, and because they represent themselves, Rule 6 parties are given slightly more latitude than the barristers, but not that much, and you have to have i's dotted and t's crossed. It involves long days and late nights of midnight oil. It is an exhausting process for 'amateurs' - and those who undertake it on behalf of their community - win or lose - deserve a medal for their efforts.

When members of the public speak, they are usually given a great deal of latitude. Bar for inappropriate language and defamation, the Inspector usually lets the public say more or less what they feel about the plan.

This was chiefly the message from Andrea and her team - she urged anyone who cared about the future of Wesham to attend the meeting to show the inspector how important it is to local people. She also asked those that felt able have their say in the meeting.

You can do that by attending at 9:30 on the first day (19 Feb) and registering to speak.

Often the Inspector will try and get people in on the first day, but if you have commitments then, they are obliged to try and find a mutually convenient day and time for you to speak.

She noted that developers can also bring people to speak in favour of the scheme, and it's not unknown for developers to put pressure on suppliers and service providers with whom they spend money to induce them to turn up and support the scheme, so it is important that those opposing it have their voices heard as well.

Cllr Linda Nulty - who we know has been working very hard on this matter also spoke about the background of the application through the Development Control Committee.

Andrea (rightly) said WAG was recognised as one of the most successful groups fighting planning applications and whilst she said she'd like to take the credit for that on behalf of her and her team, it was not the case. She believed the real reason WAG had done so well was that they had received solid support from significant numbers of the community who spoke up against the plans at a previous Inquiry.

She urged those at the meeting to attend the Inquiry and to spread the word that as many people as possible should turn up at the Inquiry at the Community Centre.

There will be a public gallery where people can sit and listen, and you can come and go through the day as you wish. She said even if you can only come and sit there for a couple of hours, it all helps to show the inspector the strength of feeling in Wesham.

She mentioned that those planning to speak should have three paper copies of bullet points of what they plan to say to hand to the Inspector and other parties at the meeting, and each speaker should aim for between 3 and five minutes.

She also said that the WAG Rule 6 Group would be having a meeting at the Community Centre on Thursday 14th and if anyone needed help or advice about what to say, they'd be happy to see and help them.

We hope to be able to attend and report at least the first day of the Inquiry for our readers, and look forward to seeing our friends in Wesham once again.

Dated:  7 February 2013


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