The Incinerator Inquiry which follows a legal framework is not the easiest of environments in which to ask residents to come and express their concerns. The Planning Inspector, Ian Jenkins, was as accommodating as possible in making people feel comfortable, but if residents did give evidence they had to consider if they would accept cross examination from Britaniacrest’s barrister in order to add more weight to their views. The process is not meant to be adversarial but inquisitorial. However, despite this many members of our community did come forward and made their feelings known to the Inspector about the impact that building this incinerator would have on their daily lives.
I attended this afternoon the last closing speeches in the Appeal against the County Council’s decision to reject the application for an Incinerator at Warnham. A decision by WSCC which I welcomed.
Jeremy Quin, Parliamentary Candidate for Horsham
The Inquiry has been especially intense for the ”No Incinerator for Horsham” community group (steering committee pictured) who from scratch raised money and hired a barrister to present, very effectively, different but additional concerns alongside the WSCC representation. The Inquiry has now closed but it may be several weeks before we know the final outcome of this process.
We were pleased that the Inspector set aside a day for site visits with all interested parties to personally view the local area. He was also making other visits on his own both during day and night to inform his decision. This was reassuring and much appreciated.
Another vital part of the Inquiry process was the opportunity for Ni4H and residents to take part in discussing what planning conditions should apply, if the incinerator were to be approved. Ni4H were assisted in round table discussions by our planning expert, Maureen Darrie and were able to bring forward proposals from research into conditions from other incinerators and to present a reasoned best practice case.
Over the past two years there have been two consultations regarding this incinerator application and the response from the residents of Horsham on both occasions has been an overwhelming objection to the development. It is by far the largest reaction to any planning application I have seen in my 14 years as County Councillor. During the first consultation 5,500 residents rejected this application either by direct objection to the planners or by signing a petition.
Since the Appeal application was made another 2,237 people have added their names to a second petition which was presented to the Planning Inspector at the Inquiry. This is an overwhelming NO vote. It is local democracy at work and we asked the Inspector to give this the weight it deserved.
Ni4H and the local community has been at a huge disadvantage to Britaniacrest in bringing our representations to this Inquiry. Given the issues involved here are very technical and complex, they have been able to use their considerable resources to buy themselves experienced experts and representatives to make their pitch. On the other hand, Ni4H are not experts and it is not a professional organisation – it is a Community Group attempting to understand and reflect the concerns of the community.
Ni4H has had to work hard not only in developing its case, but also through fundraising events, public donations and pledges of financial support, to collect significant funds so that we can afford a barrister and experts, to represent local residents. Without this massive community effort over the last 12 months, it would have been impossible to give full weight at the Inquiry in presenting the excellent case we have and the powerful reasons we have for rejection of this appeal.
We are confident from many submissions made by residents, that the Inspector will have understood the concerns that local people have about their future wellbeing if the incinerator comes to this area, the wholesale change of character that would be brought to our market town, how it would be out of keeping with its surroundings and the massive structure would overwhelm existing buildings in the surrounding area and would have a significant adverse impact on our beautiful views.
We hope these heartfelt views and the more formal input from Ni4H and WSCC barristers will sway the Inspector to reject this Appeal. We remain optimistic for a positive result.
Any suggestion that the Ni4H campaign was misleading is not so. In fact, Ni4H learned from other Community Groups labelled in this way how to avoid doing just that. Ni4H has taken great care over the content of press releases, social media publicity, newsletters, printed material and discussions with the public to remain measured in our approach to our campaign, opposing the development of this incinerator.
Finally, we want to say a big thank you to everyone who has backed this campaign in their many different ways and to Ni4H Barrister Nick Grant from Landmark Chambers, Ni4H Experts Maureen Darrie from GP Planning Ltd, Only Solutions LLP and UKWIN.
Through the hard work of Ni4H and the amazing local support we have given ourselves at least an even chance, where without it we would have had no chance, in putting our case forward so strongly for rejection of the Appeal.
We now await the Inspector’s decision probably in the first quarter of 2020.
Peter Catchpole, Chairman Ni4H, County Councillor Holbrook