Saturday, 11 October 2014

Beddington Farmlands JR Closing Comments

The JR is now over and the court will make a final decision within two or three weeks.

No point in making predictions and comment with the benefit of hindsight so will comment now.

I think the judge will rule in favour of the council and permit the application.

The only legitimate case I thought existed was the case of a biased planning officers report with regards to the impact on the nature conservation and the resulting inadequate mitigation (which was not adequate if the true nature of the factors such as the failed conservation management plan were taken into account).

The Green Party led on the JR case with a blanket anti-incineration strategy. We explored making two cases but were advised they would work against each other so the anti-incineration approach was taken (as the Green party had political/legal structures in place to move quickly). That anti-incineration strategy is largely a statement about unjust laws but that wouldn't make a legal case in this context. There is nothing illegal about incineration and the Beddington ER complies with EA regulations and all the environmental laws that are in place. Those laws and regulations may be incorrect and unjust but a judicial review only looks into whether the law (whether right or wrong) is being upheld. The strategy therefore was to look for a technicality, a flaw in the box ticking exercise which is the planning system, in the hope that someone has ticked the wrong box and that the planning application will be stopped due to an error. Basically this was the only way to stop the incinerator.

However while the focus was on stopping the incinerator by chance (luck) a real matter of reasoned concern existed. The matter of the failed conservation management plan, the breaches in previous environmental obligations, the disappearing wildlife populations and the failure of the planning officers to advise the planning committee on that  was being drowned out by party agendas and emotive opinions.

The Green party did not want to follow  that strategy because those problems could have been solved by looking at the mitigation package and working out a deal that would solve the past problems and create a better future for the reserve, the local community and the wildlife. However that would not stop the incinerator and the Green Party had their sights set on that.

So, a party agenda item, anti-incineration, ended up trumping the chance of actually looking at a specific local problem and working out a way of balancing conflict and moving forward in the best way possible. To me this is ironic as it equates to the Green Party actually being partly responsible for the loss of wildlife at Beddington Farmlands as they in effect hi-jacked the discussion table in the hope that luck would rule in their favour to stop something that they thought was wrong (but was not illegal) and in doing so, lost the chance of working within the present reality to minimise damage and work steadily towards a better future, so it's an own goal (once again) for the local community that are interested in people and nature.

The High Court situation was interesting. Three judges (two observers, one a young lady from Romania ((Why don't our English judges look like that!) and a guy from Italy), two QCs on the Council and Viridors side, with one of them earning £8000 an hour according to some sources, a line of Viridor officers, some council officers and then on the other side the only people in the room that weren't being paid to be there (the locals and naturalists) and best of all the claimant, a self proclaimed regular family man- paying the bill for the whole proceedings so that everyone else can make a load of money and the courts and the QCs get their pound of flesh of a billion pound contract. Maybe the Green Party made some political capital from the whole thing and maybe the claimant will have earned himself a higher position in the Green party political hierarchy. Who knows?, all I know is that the local wildlife and Beddington Farmlands  is fucked and has been used for all different kinds of people to fight over for a whole range of personal agendas. Here are the results for the special species that are trying to survive at the farmlands (see table below). Biodiversity is a quality of life indicator and locally that indicator is nose diving. Nobody is winning out of this conflict- we are all going down the fucking pan.

Anyway, maybe I'm wrong and the final decision will be different to what I suspect. Nothing would make me happier than to be wrong. In the meantime I'm off to the Azores for some fresh air.

Breeding pairs of the target species for selected years

1995
2000
2005
2010
2013
Notes on breeding population
Little Ringed Plover
1
1
1
0
0
Extinct
Ringed Plover
0
1
0
0
0
Failed
Lapwing
11
18
22
14
11
Initial improvement now declining
Redshank
4
1
2
0
0
Extinct
Common Tern
0
0
0
0
0
Failed
Yellow Wagtail
5
0
0
0
0
Extinct
Sedge Warbler
11
25
1
2
0
Extinct
Reed Warbler
31
19
13
32
17
Declining
Whitethroat
73
76
66
55
40
Declining
Tree Sparrow
83
52
75
80
9
Near-extinct
Reed Bunting
23
17
5
3
1
Near-extinct



4 comments:

pim wolf said...

That's a pretty depressing read Peter, Let's hope that the judges are better allies than your supposed allies turned out to be. enjoy the Isles,

Pim Wolf

Peter Alfrey said...

Cheers Pim,
I think the judge would have been a better ally to all of us if we had concentrated on stronger sound arguments. Hopefully its not over-if the judge does rule how I think then hopefully we can join forces with the Greens for a bit of direct action and new legal challenges- and this time agree on a strategy. Thanks again Pim.

Chris Townend (aka Jaffa) said...

Admiration Pete for following this through to the end despite the seemingly negative situation - Enjoy Corvo and I hope you are wrong!

Peter Alfrey said...

Cheers Jaff- hopefully will all come good in the end.