“Special circumstances” test shredded as Goodman’s bruiser claims victory on Day 2 of SIFE public inquiry
Day Two of the public inquiry into the appeal into the Slough International Freight Exchange (SIFE) did not appear to go so well for the home team.
Queen’s Counsel for Goodman Logistics, Christopher Katkowski, continued his cross-examination of Paul Stimpson, Strategic Lead Planning Policy & Projects at Slough Borough Council, for most of the day. The exhausting session was brought to an end shortly before 6pm but will continue again for another hour tomorrow morning.
The quietly spoken but perfectly controlled Mr Katkowski dissected the Council’s current and saved policies for the Green Belt, Strategic Gap and Colne Valley Park one by one, dismissing almost any relevance whatsoever to determining the appeal on the massive SIFE development.
The “special circumstances” test to determine applications to build on the Strategic Gap was said to be unique to Slough, and Mr Stimpson was forced to agree. But Mr Katkowski gradually built up a picture that, he said, illustrated that the “very high bar” set by Slough was not only higher than anything currently protecting even National Parks or Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Mr Stimpson agreed with that also.
Katkowski also contended that the approach was inconsistent with the Government’s new National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and therefore void.
In a session which retained yesterday’s good humour but was, at times, quite tetchy, the inspector gave no indication whether she was buying Mr Katkowski’s argument. For that we will probably have to wait until the New Year or later.
However, if she agrees, and if she is convinced by the arguments to be put next week as to whether there is sufficient need to justify a second Strategic Rail Freight Interchange (SRFI) in addition to Radlett, she may be forced to conclude that need outweighs the harm to the Green Belt.
Once Mr Katkowski is done with Mr Stimpson, and opposing counsel Mr Ground re-examines, interested parties – stopSIFE, the Colne Valley Park, Colnbrook and Iver Parish Councils, Colnbrook Community Association and Ritchings Park Residents Association – will all get their chance to address the inspector from around 11am.
Then it’s on to Goodman’s freight industry witnesses who will aim to justify the need for an SRFI and the particular benefits the Colnbrook location can offer.
The sessions are open to the public and residents in particular are strongly encouraged to come along, for whatever time they can spare. The inquiry is taking place at The Centre on Farnham Road. Parking is free. Tomorrow kicks off again at 10am.