Day 5 at the planning inquiry

Below is a summary of day five – the final day. A fuller reflection will be posted over the next few days.

At 10am precisely the inspector and those taking part met at 110 Walm Lane to conduct a site visit. A resident saw what they were up to and heckled – nothing to do with us but goes to show what locals think about plans to demolish the pub.

They popped into the pub and saw those parents who’d braved the snow at the Busy Rascals Bumps and Babies group. The inspector then led a two hour walk around the conservation area, including stepping left and right of the images provided by Fairview Homes (often from behind trees and lamp posts).

Onto the Civic Centre for closing submissions but before then we had detailed discussion over the opening hours of the pub IF permission is given to build the tower block. Hours will be the same as now – which is longer than when we started 5 days ago.

We had our say. As is our mantra we asked to build around the existing building, with a lower and more sympathetic design. The inspector cannot dictate this; he can only say whether or not to allow this proposal. We expressed concerns that the design was one of a residential block, and that the pub replacement  wasn’t a particularly good example, with its dog-leg shape and two room layout. Above all, we can’t see how a 10 storey block “fits” onto the site, there is still a shortfall of affordable housing and there is nowhere for Busy Rascals to go.

Brent’s barrister leaned heavily on their witness, a heritage and conservation expert. He referred to the proposal as “Rude”. Fairview’s QC (a bigshot on legal planning matters) dismissed this and reiterated their evidence – this is a suitable design and fits the area. The location lends itself to a dense building.

Whether the existing building is a “non-designated heritage asset” was covered. This is so frustrating because for the last two years council has repeatedly been asked by us to consider a local listing. Their apathy and inefficiency has left its mark because they simply did not act. That’s one for the post-mortem.

The inquiry is over and we can expect a decision in a few weeks.

What’s our view?

We’ve saved a pub (The Queensbury II) if permission is granted to demolish the building. This would be run by the current operators. We won a load of concessions to safeguard Busy Rascals in the meantime (and if the pub isn’t operating for whatever reason).

Our time and effort over the last two years means that what was previously a purely residential scheme is now a pub/community/residential scheme and we really should not underestimate how developers resist this mix. Whatever happens now, that is a significant achievement.

The decision hinges on one simple question: does a shiny 10 storey tower belong on the site and is it worthy of demolishing the building?

Only the inspector can decide and we await his verdict.

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