*** Update ***
Monday 16th November 2009:
Yes it was really the last day of the inquiry today – I know that might seem hard to believe but I think I can safely say that the inquiry is now over. An audible sigh of relief was heard from the Woods under Threat Team (and probably most of the office too!). The final day consisted of summing up of evidence by all parties. True to form Q Hotels went to town on trying to undermine our evidence through name calling, right until the last possible moment. Whereas we took a slightly more professional approach and merely pointed out the many factual inaccuracies in their evidence.
Thursday 5th November 2009:
After spending 4 days in the re-opened inquiry the team are getting a little frazzled! This week has had highs and lows with us disagreeing with many of points raised by Q Hotel’s ecologist and then finding out that there is still not time to wrap up the evidence in this extended session.
Today we went on a site visit to Broughton Woods where all parties were able to make points about their evidence and it was a really interesting day – lets hope the Inspector found it valuable too. Now Q Hotels have only their planning policy witness left who will cross-examined tomorrow – fingers crossed our barrister and the Council barrister break his defence. After that there will be a final day of the inquiry so that all parties involved gan give their closing statements.
Then there will just be the nerve-racking wait until a decision is given…..
Although it only seems two minutes since the Forest Pines Inquiry drew to a close in September, it appears to be starting again next week (2/11/09).An immense amount has happened since the closure of the inquiry. A couple of weeks ago Q Hotels decided it was a good time to challenge the antiquity of the woodland! Early on in the case this was an issue as the woodland in question was not included on the ancient woodland inventory however, after further investigation by Natural England it was decided that the wood was ancient. Q Hotels were happy with this until a couple of weeks ago when they decided to submit further evidence into the inquiry claiming that woodland is not ancient after all.However we are not worried – there is good evidence to back up the antiquity of the wood. Keith Kirby, who is Natural England’s ancient woodland specialist, thinks it is ancient too. Surely this is enough expert opinion to base a decision on!
The other thing we have been busy on is fundraising. Originally the Inquiry was only scheduled to last for four days, it soon became apparent that this was not long enough and the Inspector decided that we would reconvene for another five days. This makes the Inquiry twice as long as originally planned – and worryingly nearly twice as expensive!
We have been overwhelmed with the generous support that people have offered us both financially and through objecting to the application making the work we do possible. However the fight is not over yet and if you feel that you can offer further support please visit our appeal page.As you read this it is most likely that the team are doing some last minute preparations for the inquiry, particularly as Q Hotels are making such a material change to their case. As we had already given our evidence in the first half of the inquiry we were not expecting to have to go back into the witness stand but with such a dramatic change of evidence it looks like we might have to be back defending our precious ancient woodland once more.
Bring it on!