THE much delayed report of the public inquiry held to determine various planning applications and appeals by Mr George Purcell in connection with land adjacent to Pear Tree Cottage, Wilstone Green, was finally issued on 5th January. In his decision the Inspector, Mr Stuart Reid, rejected the planning applications, dismissed the appeals and upheld the enforcement notices issued by Dacorum Borough Council. The reason for the long delay in issuing the report (the Inquiry was held in June 2008) is still unknown. The applicants have 30 days to comply with the ruling.
In his detailed report the Inspector made it clear that his decision was based on only one of the six issues put forward as objections to the proposals. He ruled that five of the areas of objection to the development were not valid reasons to prevent the scheme being approved. There was insufficient evidence to support objections on grounds of: affecting the character and appearance of the rural area; highway safety; not a sustainable location for the proposed development; the effect on a public right of way; archaeological interests. His decision to dismiss the appeals was made solely on the grounds of the sixth issue: potential risk from flooding. Evidence was given at the Inquiry by officials from British Waterways who said that the danger of flooding from a breach in the reservoir restricted use of the land for residential purposes without major works to the dam. The Reservoirs Act 1975 sets out the criteria for flood precautions. Presently the reservoir dam is in Category B, but if the application was granted, the number of people residing in the danger area would exceed 10, which would bring about reclassification to Category A. This would require structural works to the earth dam to make it safer, the cost of which was stated to be £250,000 or more. In his report Mr Reid said that these costs “…would clearly be an unacceptable burden to place on the public purse.” There had not been any undertaking from the applicant to meet the costs. The Inspector also considered that placing a limit on the occupation of the site would be both unreasonable and unenforceable in practice. His conclusion reads:
“I find that the matters alleged in the enforcement notice are not immune from enforcement action, and I see no reason to vary the notice to amend the requirements. I consider that the flood risks and associated costs posed by the use of this land for residential use are compelling objections to this proposal, and clearly outweigh any benefits that might accrue to the appellant and his family from the use of the land as a gypsy caravan site.”
In response to questions, Dacorum Enforcement Officer Jim Henderson told the parish council meeting that enforcement action would be taken, and an injunction sought if necessary. Dacorum Head of Planning James Doe, also attending the parish council meeting, emphasised that the borough council needed to take particular care to correctly observe the necessary procedures to bring about a successful enforcement.
At present there is some occupation of the site.