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Radley Lakes Public Inquiry Blog of Session 2 Proceedings, 20-22 June 2007

20 June 2007

Day 5: Wednesday: Today, at the stroke of 11.00 am, the Radley Lakes Town Green Public Inquiry, having been adjourned since 5th April, resumed without any introductory formalities whatsoever, as if the intervening 11 weeks had never occurred. It was the same venue, the same arrangement of furniture and the same protagonists facing each other across the circular room that is the new Radley College Pavilion. It is a good venue for such an event. When spectators get bored by the apparently pointless discourses about dog walkers, barbed wire fences, maps, drawings and land boundaries, there is plenty going on on the sports field outside to distract one’s attention. Fortunately perhaps for the inquiry, the inspector and the opposing Counsels all have their backs to the windows, which ensures that their attention is kept strictly on the proceedings in hand.

Today’s proceedings made unprecedented progress, and dispensed with 7 witnesses and most of an eighth in less than as many hours, an unparalleled rate for this inquiry. Have npower instructed their counsel not to soak up the time with interminable counter-productive cross examination? Or was it simply that the witnesses came better prepared and knew what was coming? Who knows?

Eight witnesses took the stand, beginning with Mr Dunleavy, who used to live in Abingdon, but who has now moved away from the area. Dogs. That was the subject of his evidence. We all know that many people own dogs (or is it that the dogs own the people?) Dogs need to be walked daily, and what better place to take them than the Radley Lakes . With the utmost clarity and in great detail, Mr Dunleavy went on to explain the ins and outs and whereabouts of dog walking. It seems that dogs and their walkers may be the Lakes’ greatest fans. The dogs get a good run or a swim or both, and their walkers get to enjoy the scenery and a chance to do a bit of birdwatching on the side. The Radley Lakes are renowned for their birds, being reputedly one of the best sites in the County once upon a time. We all thought that meant the feathered variety. But no. It seems that there have been sightings of the lesser spotted (not seen very often) topless non-feathered variety (LSTB) as well, and not just by one witness.

And as for the dog walkers, there are so many of them, they cannot help bumping into one another, no doubt as purposefully arranged by their charges, and talk about… well, dogs. It seems that, while they generally fail to note each others names, recalling the names of each other’s dogs is de rigueur .

The Dunleavys and their dog (or was it the other way round) walked the lakes on an almost daily basis for a great many years, until the unfortunate day that the dog died. Undeterred they got another dog, and looked forward to many more enjoyable walks around The Lakes. But this was a dog whose proclivities meant that it could not be let off the leash in the vicinity of other dogs, and, as we have heard, there were many dogs constantly using the Radley Lakes , the walks had to cease.

 

The next witness was Mr Roger Thomas, recalled to the stand to explain that fences that are not there do not generally appear on maps. An obvious point perhaps, but a contentious one nonetheless. At one point Mr Mynors asked if he was accusing the landowner, Mr Dockar Drysdale, of lying about having put up fences. Mr Thomas refused to be drawn about this and explained that he was only looking for documentary evidence to support Mr Drysdale’s claims, but had not found any. There were a number of possible explanations for this and the inquiry would no doubt investigate these when Mr Drysdale gives his evidence.

 

After lunch, Mr David Guyoncourt took the stand and talked of exhaustively of exhausting runs all the way from West Abingdon, which took him all over the Land of the Lakes, sometimes venturing as far afield as Lower Radley via the Thames Path, and then back again. Whether it was his slow measured delivery or matter of fact way he said it, but it sounded like he was doing no more that taking a regular stroll down to the corner shop. Still, in later years he has increasingly turned his attention to the less strenuous pastime of birdwatching (now we know why). Other activities included counting and numbering all the trees, a mammoth task in itself, in the vain hope of getting them protected from npower’s waiting chainsaws. Maybe all along he was really searching for LSTBs.

 

Mr Ray Faulkner was next to give evidence. Now, what there is to know about the lakes that Mr Faulkner does not know is not worth knowing. Mr Faulkner has visited the Lakes on an almost daily basis for over 30 years. Under persistent cross examination about alleged fences along the edge of Thrupp Lake, he found himself telling npower and Mr Mynors what exactly a “proper fence” is; “Something to keep people out or stop them falling in a hole.” he explained Mr Mynors would have done well to heed the warning, and kept on digging, only for Mr Faulkner to reveal one or two more tit bits useful to the Claimant’s case, at which point he gave up.

 

The next witness was Mrs Liz Clack, who presented a short but clear statement about the use of the Lakes by herself and her family. Mr Mynors was wilting by this point and was only prepared to give the briefest of cross examinations drawing only the usual answers.

 

Then came Lynda Pasquire, an avid photographer who has photographed nearly everything and everyone she has seen at the Lakes over the past two years. Many of the photographs show people engaged in activities and, in themselves, are important evidence of extensive use of the lakes by people. However disappointingly, there were no pictures of an LSTB, and not many of birds generally. As Mrs Pasquire explained, she did not have the right equipment to undertake such photography.

 

Mrs Pasquire showed the sharpness of her tongue when it came to npower’s plans for the Radley Lakes. “They may not be as big as the Cumbrian Lakes but these lakes are our Lake District . How would people feel if Sellafield wanted to dump radioactive waste into Lake Windermere ? Well, it’s the same thing.” She was equally scathing about npower’s powers of restoration: “On my first visit to the Radley Lakes I took 168 photographs and even more on the next visit, with a total now running into thousands. On my one and only visit to Lakes A – D, I took only 38 photographs, and have no wish to go back.”

 

Basil Crowley then took the stand for the second time, this time to explain, in meticulous detail, the nature and condition of the fences surrounding the site. Fences of all types, barbed wire in a myriad of varieties, chainlink, gateways, gaps, holes and posts were all described and related to previously taken photographs. Now there can be no mistake as to whether a hole is there or not, or whether it is big enough to ride a horse through, with or without a carriage. Mysterious goings on at one particular fence post where the configuration of attached wire seems to have changed in the past 2 years were described. It also seems that landowners have been busy plugging holes with yet more barbed wire, as if there wasn’t enough of the stuff lying around (in all the wrong places) already.

 

However, before Dr Crowley could be cross examined on this evidence, another witness appeared, one who, it transpired had a pressing appointment later in the evening and had to present his evidence there and then. This witness was Peter Higgs, who proceeded to give an authoritative and confidently presented account of his use of the lakes over a period of nearly 40 years. Like Mr Faulkner, his knowledge of the area was detailed and exhaustive and could not be faulted under cross examination. And, like Mr Faulkner, cross examination only revealed further information useful to the Claimant.

 

The proceedings were adjourned at 6pm and will resume at 10am tomorrow with the cross examination of Dr Crowley by Mr Mynors who is no doubt sharpening his…, well his line of reasoning, as I write. After that, Mr Dockar Drysdale takes the stand, at which point he will, single handedly, attempt to slay the evidence of over 80 witnesses and more, in one fell swoop. We are tempted to wish him luck, but in this instance, I hope he will forgive us if we don’t.

 
 
 

21 June 2007

Day 6: Thursday: Midsummer’s Day in Radley College Cricket Pavilion saw a continuation of the strange and tortuous ritual known as the Radley Lakes Town Green Public Inquiry. This morning opened with the cross examination of Dr Basil Crowley by Mr Mynors over the state of fences around the Radley Lakes . Expectations of a long and arduous cross examination to do justice to the length and detail of The Report were let down by a brief exchange of questions which established only that the hole in a gate had been recently repaired (an uncontested fact) and that bits of barbed wire along the eastern edge of Thrupp Lake were not inconsistent with the possibility that some sort of ad hoc fence along all or part of this section of boundary existed at some time in the past. Having established the crucial fact that some of the wires were attached to trees in one or two places, Mr Mynors relented and slumped back into his chair.

 

As Dr Crowley returned to the floor, obviously a bit disappointed not to have been presented with something a bit more intellectually challenging, Mr Petchey rested his case, with the proviso that there were one or two supernumerary witnesses who were lined up to give evidence later in the day. It was agreed that they could be interspersed with the main proceedings at the times when those witnesses made themselves available.

 

After some rearrangement of furniture to move the witness table to the other side of the room, lest no doubt some witness forgot which side they were on, My Mynors began his presentation of the case for the Objectors, beginning with his first witness, Mr Charles Dockar Drysdale. Now, Mr Drysdale had hitherto been taking a great interest in the proceedings to date, and now, upon taking the stand, revealed his own interest in the matter – nothing more than a thin strip of land along the western shore of Thrupp Lake, a piece of land, on its own, of not much use to anybody, but of some potential value nonetheless. Anyway Mr Dockar Drysdale led us to believe that he was assiduously guarding his rights over said piece of land, which he claimed to have successfully defended against npower’s attempts to intrude upon it from the neighbouring site. From previous planning applications, it seems clear that npower would love to construct a clay bund on top of it given half a chance.

 

Mr Dockar Drysdale, a one time owner of the Lake, was resident for a time during the 20 year period, at the house, known as Sandles, which he himself built at the NE corner of the Lake. He and his family used the lake for water sports and other boat-related activities. Mr Drysdale said that he actively and rigorously discouraged trespass onto the lake and its boundaries. He said ” Thrupp Lake was our back garden. I objected to people intruding upon it, just as you would if people trespassed in yours… We had a ban on public swimming in the lake… since we moved into the house in 1981.”

 

Mr Dockar Drysdale explained how his family had owned land in Radley since 1850, and how that land, the Wick Hall Estate, had been divided up between family members in 1965, and how the share he eventually inherited in 1972 turned out to be an area of gravel pits in the process of being plundered by a certain family business by the name of Curtis, more about which later, to whom the mineral rights had been sold some time before. Mr Drysdale then described how he set about making the most of his new asset. Mr Drysdale and his family love boats, and had already established a small exclusive water skiing club on lakes, now filled with fuel ash, on the other side of the railway. At some point in the mid 1970s, the club’s activities moved to Thrupp Lake . His next step was to build a house. (The lake is in the Oxford Green Belt, which means only appropriate development, such as that in connection with rural sports and activities, would be permitted. So Mr Drysdale applied for, and eventually received, planning permission to build a clubhouse, with adjoining manager’s residence.) Mr Drysdale then built the residence and promptly moved in. The water skiing club was subsequently disbanded. The clubhouse was never built, because, explains Mr Drysdale, the local power company called in the early 1980s, not to read the meter, but, as they do, to claim the lake as a convenient place to dump some pulverised fuel ash (PFA) that they needed to get rid of in a hurry. This was apparently accepted by the planning authority as reason enough for Mr Drysdale not to build a clubhouse.

 

Mr Drysdale explained how unhappy he was at this turn of events. “Can you imagine how I felt?” he said “We had just moved into our dream home after 9 years, 6 years to get planning permission, 3 years to build it, when this happens!” Mr Drysdale protests, and remarkably the power company relents (this was the CEGB remember, not RWE npower) and initially agrees to a 10 year stay of execution, and takes its PFA across the railway to the east. At the end of the 10 period the power company gives up its option and announces that it doesn’t need Thrupp Lake after all. There is, according to their slide-rule wielding surveyors, enough space in the other lakes to meet all of the station’s requirements to end of life. Mr Drysdale and his family are left in peace to enjoy their lovely new residence, and mess about in boats on the lovely lake, for a further 4 or 5 years, before eventually selling the property to new owners in 1997. However the power station’s planning permission still hangs over the lake like a Sword of Damocles, and, at some point soon after, the power station redoes its sums on its new electronic calculator, and decides that it must have Thrupp Lake after all. The new owners are reluctant to sell their beautiful lake. But everything has a price, and RWE npower finally wrested the lake back in 2005 for a very tidy sum indeed, and the new owners certainly did not lose out for purchasing what might, on the face of it, have appeared to have been a blighted property.

 

Mr Drysdale was questioned closely by Mr Mynors on the nature of the fence that he claimed to have constructed along the E bank of the Lake along the byway in 1974. His account of the events of the time conjured up images of people diving off the byway into the Lake, in droves, to swim in the Lake on hot summer’s days. Mr Drysdale could not tolerate that, and so claims to have constructed a barbed wire fence of sorts along the eastern edge of the lake in order to prevent this. This fence, which Mr Drysdale admitted was constructed in an “ad hoc unworkmanlike and haphazard manner” was, he explained, intended to be a statement rather than a barrier of the impenetrable variety. People stopped diving into the lake, and Mr Drysdale, contented that his statement had been understood, happily allowed the fence to fall into dilapidation. At the southern end of this “fence”, Mr Drysdale claimed to have installed and operated a long barbed wire gate comprising a single detachable strand of barbed wire, which would have had to have been over 50 metres in length, to control access to the SE corner of the lake. He indicated that this unwieldy device soon fell into disuse.

 

As the morning wore on, light showers of rain were blowing across the lush green playing fields, providing them with a light watering ahead of the afternoon sports activities.

 

Finally, Mr Mynors sat down, or would have if he hadn’t done so already. Mr Dockar Drysdale then presented a short speech saying that he was not in favour of npower filling the lakes, but could not see why his land had been included in the Town Green application, as it was not threatened by the proposed development, and indicated that his presence at the inquiry was solely to protect his interests over that land. He then stretched back in his chair and waited for the Cross Examination to come.

 

Mr Petchey, for the Claimants, started his questioning gently, first with some easy questions, then some Mr Drysdale couldn’t possibly know the answer to, and then onto some more difficult stuff. Mr Petchey systematically proceeded to probe the detail of Mr Drysdale’s evidence, exposing an inconsistency here and an omission there… until the proceedings were interrupted by the Inspector who decided it was time for everyone to have lunch. By this time, Mr Drysdale had been in the chair for over two and a half hours.

 

After lunch, one of the Claimant’s left over witnesses decided to put in an appearance. Mr Oliver Tickell, well known journalist and environmental campaigner, obviously dressed to impress, took the seat, now on the wrong side of the Inspector (who didn’t seem to mind this peccadillo) and proceeded to describe how he had swum in all the western lakes, including Thrupp and Bullfield, at various times over a period of 5-6 years.

 

After this brief interlude, the cross examination of Mr Drysdale continued and ground interminably on, while, outside, children came out to play cricket in the emerging sunshine, played, packed up and went away.

 

Then, yet another of the Claimant’s left over witnesses interrupted the proceedings to take the stand, or rather the chair, from Mr Drysdale. This was a Dr Clyne, who discovered the Lakes in 1985, and who since found them to be a place of peace and tranquility, which he personally had found particularly valuable. Having presented his evidence relating to use, Dr Clyne then chastised npower, and its supporters, for their attitude towards the lakes and the community who love them, and for thinking solely in commercial terms. He charged them with “knowing the cost of everything and the value of nothing”. This was particularly courageous, as, the furniture again not having been rearranged; he was sitting over on their side of the room where he could clearly see the whites of their eyes.

 

After a short adjournment, Mr Dockar Drysdale took the witness chair yet again – for the final time. The cross examination had now turned to map evidence (again) and of what can really be seen from the house in the years between 1986 and when npower cut down all the trees on the islands (otherwise it would have been a whole lot easier, and a whole lot less painful for all concerned, simply to have gone out there to take a look.) Instead, Mr Thomas spent hours painstakingly drawing a map showing the sightlines from the house and how they were interrupted by the islands, only to have Mr Drysdale toss it aside as being a meaningless document. Undaunted, Mr Petchey turned to the draining of the Lake. Mr Drysdale was unsure of exactly when it happened. Was it 1991 or was it 1992? Mr Drysdale explained that it was all about rescuing fish from npower – the 10 year stay of execution was coming to an end. . Nonetheless, having removed one load of fish, Mr Drysdale said that, when the lake was refilled, he immediately proceeded to restock it with trout. These were penned into one corner with a net supported on a row of buoys, and kept there for fly fishing. He then threw the line of buoys (metaphorically speaking) at the Claimants as something that witnesses visiting the northern shore at that time should have seen and commented upon. When Mr Petchey put it to him that, as this happened over 10 years ago and no one was questioned about it, it was unsurprising that no one had mentioned it, Mr Drysdale disagreed.

 

Eventually, Mr Petchey concluded his careful dissection of Mr Drysdale’s evidence, but it wasn’t over yet. Mr Mynors had some further questions by way of reexamination, and the Inspector had a number of points requiring clarification. Eventually, 5 hours after taking the chair, Mr Drysdale is released.

 

There was time for another witness, so Mr John Curtis is duly called to present his evidence on behalf of the objectors. Mr Curtis is a well known figure in the village and is the Managing Director of the Sand and Gravel company that bears his name. He explains that his interest in the inquiry is his ownership of the Bullfield Lake , a lake that he all but gave up long ago by leasing the filling rights to the CEGB and their successors (now RWE npower) for the filling thereof with pulverised fuel ash. [Due to the efforts of the campaign to save the lakes, the Bullfield hopefully has been saved from this fate by the section 106 agreement attached to RWE npower’s planning permission, whereby RWE npower has undertaken not to fill it with PFA from the power station. Nevertheless it is, like Mr Dockar Drysdale’s land, caught up in the Town Green Application due solely to its proximity to the threatened Thrupp Lake.]

 

In a quiet voice and sincere tone, Mr Curtis proceeds to read from his statement. When he gets to a reference to the contractors’ compound that was allegedly on the west Bullfield, he is interrupted by Mr Mynors. “Compound… do you remember a compound?” “Yes” replies Mr Curtis. “Where was it?” asks Mr Mynors, “Where were the portacabins?” Mr Curtis answers these questions to the best of his ability. After all, it was not his compound (It was npower’s, on land he had leased to them.) Then he is asked how long it was there. “One to two years” he replies. Mr Mynors continued with a series of questions about the Lake H & I operations to the south, which were being serviced from the compound, before returning to the question of how long the compound had been there. He pointed out to Mr Curtis that npower’s evidence stated that they were there for only 6 months. Mr Curtis appeared momentarily nonplussed, but Mr Mynors throws him a lifeline. “It was the lease that ran for 2 years.” Mr Curtis continues to read from his statement “… The contractors’ compound occupied the site for a period of 6 months”. Mr Curtis smiles. “Oh yes, it was 6 months. That’s what I should have said.” and carries on.

 

Mr Curtis, as it turns out, is a kindly old soul, who has let people roam freely over his land for many years. To be rewarded for this by being deprived of some of that land as a result seems unkind. (But let there be no mistake about who the real villains are here. If npower had not persisted in their attempt to destroy Thrupp Lake , none of this would be happening.)

 

Mr Curtis’s evidence is brief. The Bullfield Lake turns out to be one of his less favourite spots and he has not visited it very often.

 

Mr Mynors asks him about the history of the site. He explains that the Bullfield was dug out in 1959 and the western end subsequently filled in with “inert material”, some of which came from the remains of the old Gloucester Green Bus Station in Oxford . He was stopped from infilling the remainder of the lake by the new waste regulations that came into force in 1974 [We suspect he is referring to the Control of Pollution Act 1974] thus leaving the lake in its present form.

 

The Inquiry is adjourned at 6pm until the earlier time of 9,30am tomorrow, Friday.

 
 
 

22 June 2007

Day 7 Friday The Final Day of the Inquiry begins at the earlier time of 9.30. We gather that the Inspector is somewhat keen to get away before the end of the afternoon and is giving the proceedings as much time as possible to allow it to conclude before then.

 

The day begins with a brief statement by Mrs Jennie Standen adding the support of the Parish Council, of which she is Chairman, to that of the Town Council, represented, in April, by the then Mayor, Peter Green, to the Town Green Application by Mrs Cartmell. She said that the Parish Council had consistently opposed the recent applications by RWE npower to fill Bullfield and Thrupp Lakes with fuel ash, and that, in December 2005, the Council had passed a motion asking RWE npower to withdraw planning application on environmental and community amenity grounds. She said that the Council has consistently worked to keep area open to the Public.

 

The Inspector nodded impatiently, and directed Counsels to conduct their cross examinations. Mr Petchey had no questions. Mr Mynors asked Mrs Standen about her personal experiences of the lakes. She replied that her visits were occasional and confined to the past 3 years or so. She was then dismissed.

 

The Inquiry then went back to the more weighty business of the cross examination of Mr Curtis by Mr Petchey.

 

Mr Petchey asked Mr Curtis about the nature interest of the site and whether he thought it was beautiful. Mr Curtis agreed it was beautiful and added that they had even received an award for something that nature had done by itself. Mr Curtis was then asked about his fences and gates, and replied that he had maintained these to try to keep out motor cyclists and joy riders. Burnt out cars on the site were a problem at one time. He had not been particularly concerned about pedestrians using the site, unless there was a health and safety issue, as there would be in the plant area for example. When asked about the access to the Bullfield from the SE corner, Mr Curtis said that that access point had always been there since the lake was excavated in 1959. Regarding access from the gate at the other end, he said that, since 1997, when the haulage of gravel from Lakes H and I ceased, it had been kept locked, at least as far as he was concerned. He said that the local farmer had a key and was able to use the gates at will. When asked about npower’s portacabins on the site in 2002, he said he remembered HERAS fencing but not the area enclosed. When asked to compare an aerial photograph taken in January 2003 with npower’s map of the West Bullfield area, Mr Curtis said that the photograph was obviously more correct. Apart from asking about one or two details concerning fishing agreements and to whom Mr Curtis had given permissions for other things, Mr Petchey concluded his cross examination

 

Mr Mynors returned to his feet for a few more questions about the gate at the NW corner that Mr Curtis claims was always shut outside working day on weekdays and Saturday mornings,.

 

Mr Thomas is then recalled to the chair to explain the sightline map that Mr Drysdale so contemptuously tossed aside the previous day. He also points out the many trees that were on the islands and around the house before npower cut them down in February, and those that were evident on the aerial photograph taken in 1982.

 

Mr Mynors did his best to discredit this evidence by pointing out that, because trees grow rather than shrink, visibility from the house would have been better in the past, and that the map base used may be subject to inaccuracies due to the fact that the OS map and npower’s did not agree in detail. Mr Thomas conceded the first point, but not the second, saying that the mapping discrepancies were unimportant and that he would tend to put his trust in the OS map.

 

On reexamination, Mr Petchey was able to allow Mr Thomas to point out that the map he had used agreed with what was shown in the photograph.

 

The inquiry is making good progress. The time is now 11.00am.

 

The next witness is Mr John Norton, a qualified chartered surveyor (FRICS [1] ) who has worked for npower and its predecessors for 30 years [he hardly looks old enough]. He is present at the inquiry to represent RWE power’s interest in the site, which, he explains, are ownership of Thrupp Lake and Sandles, which they purchased in 2005, an option that the power company held on that land until 1992, and an extant filling lease on the Bullfield Lake . He has only been an occasional visitor to the Application Land , having visited it in 1992, crossed it during the infilling of Lakes H and I, and recently. Most of his evidence of use therefore relates to things outside his personal experience including some hearsay evidence about the previous owners’ “robust” attitude to trespassers and swimmers. [Those previous owners refused to become involved in the inquiry.]

 

He was made to answer a string of nit-picking questions from Mr Mynors as to the accuracy of different maps of the area, and how much reliance should be put in them. Although Mr Norton admitted to not being a qualified cartographer [a qualified expert in maps to you and me] and said that OS maps, although good, the best even, they could not be considered 100% reliable. All the same, he did say that he would rather trust npower’s maps over the OS. [He is clearly a Company Man].

 

Mr Norton remembered the portacabins on the West Bullfield , which he had passed by on a number of occasions, but could not remember where the fencing around them went or even if they were totally enclosed by it.

 

Mr Norton was asked about a number of additional access points around the Bullfield that had been referred to in the applicant’s supplementary evidence. Obviously, since they had not been noted on his previous survey, they must have been created since then. He referred to the wire having being freshly cut (of which he said he had photographs, photographs, which for reasons he did not explain, he had not submitted in his evidence. [What he may not have known is that the Applicants have photographs of these same bits of wire showing cut ends that are anything but new, and that these are submitted with their evidence.]

 

Mr Norton claimed to know an awful lot about the people who owned the house and lake from 1997 to 2005, despite the fact that they appeared to be completely unacquainted except through business negotiations to purchase Thrupp Lake, which took place from 2004. [We very much doubt that Mr Norton would be listed among their closefriends.] Nevertheless, hearsay evidence was presented as to those people’s robust attitude to trespassers.

 

Mr Norton then gave evidence on behalf of horse riders saying that the paths around the Bullfield would be unsuitable for them. [One suspects that he has never ridden a horse in his life, and we wonder what he thinks the hoof marks sometimes visible on the path along the south of the Bullfield are caused by? Unicorns perhaps?]

 

Finally, Mr Mynors refers Mr Norton to a plan, on which is sketched what was purportedly the area occupied by the contractors’ compound in 2002, a map which has already been shown to several witnesses for their opinions as to its accuracy as to the configuration of the compound. Mr Norton now informs us that the map actually describes the area excluded to pedestrians as a result of the compound being there. As the last witness of the day, and with less than 2 hours left, how are the claimants supposed to refute this?

 

Lunchtime arrives and in come the sandwiches. Mr Norton is temporarily excused.

 

At the stroke of 2.00pm, Mr Chapman rings his bottle bell for the last time. “The inquiry is in session.”

 

Mr Petchey, for the Applicant then proceeds to cross examine Mr Norton on various aspects of his evidence. He has not got a lot of time…

 

Mr Petchey asked him, if in the light of all the evidence that had gone before, his evidence was passé. “Not entirely” replies Mr Norton. [So some of it is.] “Do you accept that there is a strong case for registering the southern part of the land?” asks Mr Petchey “I am not qualified to say”, replies Mr Norton. [It seems, Mr Norton is happy to provide unqualified opinions when they suit his case, but remains unqualified in those areas when they don’t. Mr Norton is a Company Man – and would certainly never offer an opinion that is contrary to the interests of his company.]

 

Mr Petchey then asked how the many people who said that they visited the lake shore along the east bank of Thrupp Lake did so when he said the bank was too steep or obstructed to enable then to do so. Mr Norton replied simply by saying that he couldn’t. When pushed further on this point by testimony from further witnesses, Mr Norton refused to comment. [One suspects that scrambling up and down the banks of lakes is not something that one would attempt while wearing a suit and town shoes.]

 

He was then asked why the power company decided, in 1982, to delay filling Thrupp Lake , Mr Norton replied that it was a “Commercial Decision.” [This doesn’t answer the question at all. What other sorts of decision are there that the power company might take?]

 

There is then a lengthy cross examination about the accuracy of maps, at the end of which Mr Norton finally concedes that the OS have got the pattern of islands reasonably correct. Hurray! 1:0 to Mr Petchey.

 

Mr Petchey then tries to use the various maps to relate the chronology of the fences, based upon other evidence. Mr Norton does not seem to understand this and frustrates Mr Petchey by questioning the accuracy or validity of the maps. These are OS maps, not npower maps, and therefore are not to be relied upon at all. Mr Petchey was not relying on them, but Mr Norton does not seem to understand this. Perhaps he does, so he does not have to give an adverse opinion. [Remember, he is a Company Man.] Mr Petchey is forced to have to clarify the pedigree of the map. One all.

 

Mr Petchey then asks about the previous owners’ maintenance of fences. There seems to be agreement here, until Mr Petchey suggests that the chainlink fencing along the BOAT at the SE corner of Thrupp Lake was built to prevent vehicular access. “I am not sure about that” retorts Mr Norton, the fence is more substantial and more expensive than would be necessary to keep out vehicles.” [So what does he think it is there for? Elephants?]

Then Mr Norton is asked about fishermen and asked whether they would be inclined to evict trespassers. He offers the opinion that fishermen don’t like people going near them as they might frighten the fish. [Speaking for yourself of course, Mr Norton! Of course Mr Norton is actually speaking for all of npower. He is a Company Man through and through.]

 

Mr Petchey offers a few questions about the compound to which Mr Norton is unable to add to his previous evidence. Mr Norton is perhaps the only witness to have visited this compound, but he says he cannot remember how it was fenced, or what was in it. He does offer a conjecture about the possibility of HERAS gates across the track about which he is honest enough to admit he isn’t sure.

 

By now Mr Petchey is running short of time and having to rush along a bit. He asks Mr Norton about the gap with the freshly cut wires. Mr Norton then responds with an exposition about gaps being closed up and reappearing somewhere else. [What is he talking about we wonder.] Mr Petchey directs him to the particular gap at 7b and asks about when it was created. Mr Norton sticks to his earlier opinion. [He is a Company Man and he could not possibly change that.]

 

Finally, Mr Petchey challenges Mr Norton on the fence post where earlier photographic evidence of Dr Crowley had shown changes in the configuration of the attached wire between 2005 and 2007. Mr Norton then gives the astonishing reply that he did not think that the configuration of the wire had changed, and moreover that the configuration of the nails was consistent with there having been a south side brace. [Whoops! Obviously Mr Norton’s surveying skills do not extend to Spot the Difference puzzles. And did he not know that the presence or absence of a south-side brace on the post was rendered irrelevant by Mr Dockar Drysdale’s evidence the previous day?]

 

At this point Mr Petchey abruptly ends his cross examination. Perhaps the Inspector has given him some sort of sign that he wishes to wind up the inquiry.

 

Mr Norton was the final witness. The Inspector then calls upon any member of the public in the room, who wishes to give evidence, to come forward now. It’s the final chance. The Inspector pauses momentarily, and is about to proceed when a voice calls out “Yes, I wish to speak!” The Inspector glowers. All eyes turn to the speaker. It is Dr Cline who wishes to add to his testimony of yesterday. “This won’t take long.” he says, as he takes his seat. “What do you want to say?” asks the inspector, with the merest hint of irritation. Dr Cline explains that it had been pointed out to him that he had omitted a key item from his evidence. He then states for the record that his visits to the Land over the past 20 years had been without permission or hindrance. That was it. Relieved at his brevity, the Inspector dismisses the witness and goes on to make his closing remarks.

 

Like a schoolmaster setting homework for his pupils, Mr Chapman asks the two barristers to submit written closing statements. He then sets them a further 8 problems, points of law upon which he needs assistance and advice. All homework will be handed in by 4pm Monday 16 July. Mr Mynors volunteers to hand his in a week early, no doubt hoping to earn some extra favour with teacher for doing so.

 

With that, the Inspector closed the inquiry at 15:40.

 

 

 
[1] Which, we believe, denotes someone who is supposed to very good at surveying property and telling you what it is worth (but not necessarily what its value is).
 
 

Other links relevant to this posting

www.saveradleylakes.org.uk

Oxford Mail 20 June 2007

Oxford Mail 21 June 2007

Oxford Mail 22 June 2007

Herald 20 June 2007

Herald 20 June 2007

Herald 20 June 2007

Herald 21 June 2007

EcologistOnLine Report 12 July 2007

 

 

[Update 24/06/2007]

Summary of Session 2 Proceedings

Inspector   Mr Vivian Chapman QC
     

Counsel for the Applicant,

(Mrs Jo Cartmell)

  Mr Philip Petchey
     

Counsel for the Objectors,

(RWE npower, Messrs Curtis and Dockar Drysdale)

  Mr Charles Mynors
     
Venue  

The New Pavilion,

Radley College,

20-22 June 2007

On days 5-7, the inquiry heard evidence from 12 more witnesses, + two recalled, as follows:

Wednesday, 20 June

John Dunleavy

  Roger Thomas (recalled)
  David Guyoncourt
  Ray Faulkner
  Elizabeth Clack
  Lynda Pasquire
  Peter Higgs
  Basil Crowley (recalled)
Thursday, 21 June Basil Crowley (cont.)
  Charles Dockar Drysdale
  Oliver Tickell
  Charles Dockar Drysdale (cont)
  Dr L Clyne
  Charles Dockar Drysdale (cont.)
  John Curtis
Friday, 22 June Jennie Standen
  John Curtis (cont.)
  Roger Thomas (recalled)
  John Norton
  Dr L Clyne (cont.)

Permanent link to this article: http://www.radleyvillage.org.uk/radley-lakes-public-inquiry-blog-of-session-2-proceedings-20-22-june-2007/