Finally, we reach the end of a long and winding process. It has taken 13 witnesses, two barristers, 11 third party interest groups and individuals, and more boxes of paper than any one cares to imagine to debate the need for ragstone versus the environmental loss of irreplaceable ancient woodland. This fundamental issue in the planning application – that could result in the loss of 31 hectares of ancient woodland – remains still alive and very much at the heart of the inquiry as it draws to a close.
The irony that we are fighting to save woodland amid a flurry of so much paperwork is not lost on us, but we are deep into the system and this is what we must do to take our campaign through to the end.
The Planning Inspector has been patient and thorough for all parties concerned. So thorough that he has taken over 3 bic-biro’s worth of notes (we know this is a fact as he put them in our bin), carried out 3 day’s worth of site visits and experienced a quarry blasting. This is on top of hearing all of the witnesses statements and barrister’s cross examinations on both sides.
Kent Wildlife Trust worked phenomenally hard to deliver their own case and to add weight to ours through their ecological argument. For their support, local knowledge and excellent ecological information we are very grateful.
Kent County Council also explained their decision-making process and reasoning behind why they initially passed the application through.
The local group Save Oaken Wood also took their opportunity to be a valuable part in this decision making process. This, alongside local resident’s detailed evidence painted a picture of life living by a quarry for the Inspector.
The process now moves into the Inspector producing a report that will give direction for the final decision to be taken by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Rt Hon Eric Pickles MP. As I write we are still waiting for a timetable but it would be no surprise if this takes 4 to 6 months.
We’d like to extend a huge thank you to all who have sent messages of support and donations to help make this happen. Without you we could never have got this far.
As soon as we have a result, we will blog to let everyone know.
LATEST UPDATE: Estimated report date from the Planning Inspector – 22nd March 2013.