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Barratts public inquiry update

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CRAG on the Precinct

CRAG on the Precinct in September 2014

Despite four days of evidence and legal argument, the public inquiry at Weston Town Hall into the Barratts appeal is still not finished. Lawyers representing Barratts, North Somerset Council and Congresbury Parish Council have decided that one more day is needed to conclude the case, which will resume on 23 October.

Planning inspector Richard Schofield, who visited the site of Barratts proposed scheme for 80 houses, made another visit on Friday morning to see for himself the junction of the A370 and the High Street.

Mr Schofield listened to more than 30 statements from Congresbury residents, many of whom questioned the need for the proposed junction scheme involving two pedestrian islands in the road near the Ship and Castle.

The hearing began with opening statements from lawyers representing the parties to the dispute – Barratts, North Somerset and Congresbury parish, followed by expert witnesses. On each day, the inspector heard evidence on three main topics – traffic and highways, landscape and the environment and the question of sustainability.

Retired GP Dr Moya Wilson was particularly concerned with the safety of the scheme, both with regard to the footway along Brinsea Road close to the site entrance, and to the proposed junction changes.

Said Dr Wilson: “Local concern about safety (of the proposed junction) is widespread, with those from the nearby primary school, pre-school and youth club and parents of young children all extremely worried.”

Another long term resident, Robin Lea, made an impassioned plea not to have the village spoiled by indiscriminate, over-development. “At local level no-one wants this unplanned, indiscriminate building now being tried on by many and various developers who have invaded our county of North Somerset.”

Three residents, who use mobility scooters, gave evidence about the problems they would face if the junction scheme went ahead.

Vince Russett, an archeologist employed by North Somerset, but speaking on his own behalf, pointed out the strong likelihood of damage from passing vehicles to the 600 year-old Market Cross, a listed ancient monument.

He thought that HGVs turning left towards Weston would come closer to the Cross, which should have a protective barrier around the base. His fears were reinforced later in perceptive questions from Pete Wright and other Congresbury residents.

Presentations from residents – including supporters of CRAG – were models of clarity and conviction. Some of the highlights included Michael Greaves impassioned plea to protect the countryside for our grandchildren; Viv Tomkinson presenting a wider picture of development in the area and how that would impact Congresbury.

Mary Short pointed out the dangers inherent in the pedestrian refuges proposed in the traffic mitigation scheme, and being aggressively questioned by Barratts barrister as a result. Diana Hassan explained that the parish council had been involved in promoting development in Congresbury, particularly on brownfield sites.

Other villagers who gave evidence at the inquiry included Nick and Marlene Green, Peter and Anita Tonks, Susan Hibberd, Chris Short, Gail Lee, Terry Holden, Ruth Gilberson, Del Wraight, Rob Bigwood, Ken Richardson, Alex Ballard, David Anderson, Frazer Hughes, Catherine Kemplay, Judy Ashley, Keith James, Liz English, Michelle Walker, Steve Eastment, Christine Nuttall and ward councillor, Tom Leimdorfer.

One local resident who sat through four days of claim and counter claim, observed: “It is difficult to say how the inspector will judge the weight of various points, but he was very accommodating to public witnesses and should be thanked for that.

“Whatever the eventual result, one thing is certain given the quality of evidence from Congresbury residents – Barratts will know they have been in a fight.”

John Mills John Mills

Journalist and jazz saxophonist John Mills has lived in Congresbury for more than 25 years, moving to the village from West London with his wife Rocki and 10 month old son, Sam in 1979. After a few years in Clevedon, John and Rocki moved back to the village in 2006, renovating and extending a bungalow in Yew Tree Park. Sadly, Rocki died in 2013. John, 71 keeps busy musically, playing with Cadbury Wind Band, with his son in the Sam Mills Quintet, and with a newly formed duo, Sax in the City with fellow Congresbury saxophonist and vocalist, Louise Harris.

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