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Hold inquiry into Postwick Hub or risk legal challenge

15 February 2010
Campaign for Better Transport joined other transport NGOs to warn Lord Adonis that Draft orders for the Postwick Interchange [1] must be subject to a public inquiry, or would be likely to face a legal challenge.

The coalition's [2] comments came in an open letter [3][4] to the Secretary of State for Transport, Lord Adonis.

Established case law [5] requires that if there are objections to draft orders for highways schemes, a public inquiry should be held unless the Secretary of State is satisfied one would be unnecessary.  

The Postwick Interchange has drawn a number of objections, including one from a statutory objector, which raise conflicting interests that need to be expressed and weighed at an inquiry.

Stephen Joseph, Executive Director of the Campaign for Better Transport, said "The procedure for deciding whether to build a new road is simple, and designed to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to have their say. Unfortunately Norfolk County Council, Broadland District Council and the Highways Agency have got into a muddle in their rush to start work on the Postwick Interchange. This catalogue of errors can only be resolved by holding a public inquiry into the draft orders, where an independent inspector will need to spend some time unpicking the mess."

"If the Secretary of State intervenes to prevent a public inquiry, then it is very likely the decision would be challenged in the courts."

Notes to editors:

[[1] The Draft Side and Slip Road Orders for the A47 (T) Postwick Interchange were published by the Highways Agency on 13 November 2009, acting on the instruction of Norfolk County Council. The County Council had made a joint application with Ifield Estates for planning permission to Broadland District Council for the construction of the Broadland Gate business park and major modifications to the A47 (T) Postwick Interchange and surrounding highway network. The Postwick Interchange is the first stage in the Norwich Northern Distributor Road, a controversial road scheme, which would encircle the north-east of Norwich.
 
[2] [3] The letter to Lord Adonis was signed by the Campaign for Better Transport, the Campaign to Protect Rural England, and CTC, the national cyclists’ organisation. It was sent to the Secretary of State for Transport, Lord Adonis, and copied to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, John Denham MP. 

[4] The letter highlights several procedural errors, which the NGOs believe should be examined in detail at an inquiry, including:

 

  • The planning application to which the orders refer was granted by Broadland District Council, which has no power to approve planning permission for highway schemes;
  • The district council advertised the scheme as a departure from the Local Plan but did not mention this in the committee report, nor did it refer the application as a departure to the Secretary of State, which it is required to do under the 1999 Town and Country Planning Departures and Consultation Direction;
  • The procedure by which the Highways Agency made the orders was designed to help developers, not county councils (who have their own powers and procedures to follow);
  • There was no exhibition into the orders, the orders were sent to the wrong MP and only one of the affected Parish Councils was notified

[5] Decisions on whether to hold an inquiry into draft orders for highways schemes are covered by the decision of Webster J. in Binney and Anscomb v. Secretary of State for the Environment and Secretary of State for Transport [1984] JPL 871, which holds that a public inquiry should be the norm if objections are made to draft orders. The only exception to this is where the Secretary of State can be satisfied holding a public inquiry is unnecessary, both because conflicting views could be properly weighed and because those with the right to make representations could have their representations properly taken into account without an inquiry being held.