The inquiry has finished and now? This week was the last of the inquiry. Closing statements were made on Tuesday and the Inspector’s accompanied site visit was on Wednesday.
I don’t want to go into depth on the statements, but we were happy with both ours and the Council’s closings. Regarding Sky’s closing statement and subsequent decision to attempt to rebut ours on an almost paragraph by paragraph basis, we should consider this the sincerest form of flattery.. there must have been something of value to rebut? It seemed in my subjective opinion that instead of pushing the benefits of the application and standing behind the strength of their experts technical evidence, they spent much more time trying to cast doubt over the expertise of the witnesses the opposition had presented. I guess this is just one of those planning inquiry “games” that the barristers occasionally referred to during the process.. if you fail to disprove the evidence, attack the witnesses credibility. Either way, the Inspector has all the evidence now and given the thorough and fair manner in which he has conducted the inquiry, we can expect the decision to be made on the basis of the evidence rather than petty snipes at our witnesses.
Both myself and Councillor Stone attended the site visit, along with representatives from the Council and Sky. During the morning we walked the Canal and had a good look around the Green Lane area. There was one thing that we didn’t see that struck me as important and that was HGVs. In the 2-3 hours (9am-11:30ish) we spent around Green Lane.. we only saw 2 HGVs. This presented a stark contrast with the 800-900 HGVs per day Sky suggested were currently using the road. It was also good to stand on the site too. While much focus has been put on discussing the stack, the enormity of the other buildings becomes much more clear. The sizable buildings on the O’Connor site are actually only half the height of the proposed buildings and that doesn’t include the height of the stack. They really would dominate the area.
Going to JWS in Salford confirmed this too, the processing buildings are huge (about 20-25m high). The visit re-enforced some of our concerns around the proposal. On arriving we were given a Health & Safety presentation where we could see all the processes and procedures the company claims keep it compliant with regulations. Immediately after, we walked out of the office and were met by a JWS collection truck carrying a skip full of rubbish, open and un-sheeted. When noticed, the Operations Manager for JWS told us that it should have been sheeted and that the driver should get a disciplinary for the non-compliance. The driver obviously hadn’t read the numerous policies and procedures neatly pinned all over the JWS office walls. It begs the question, if an operation fails to get it’s own employees to comply with such regulations, what luck are they going to have with contractors? Not the greatest start to the visit and with the following display of an overfilled processing building, with waste pouring out of the door into the open air.. things didn’t get much better.
The end of the JWS visit formally concluded that part of the inquiry.
I’ve had countless people approach me in recent days to ask whether or not the development will be stopped. The answer is that we simply don’t know. Starting the inquiry it seemed like common sense. Of course the Inspector will dismiss the appeal.. when you look at the area, it’s aspirations, existing traffic, air quality and health problems, the development just doesn’t make sense. But, having heard Sky’s witnesses skillfully massage statistics and selectively include/exclude information to present their message in the best light.. the water becomes somewhat more muddied.
We have done all we can now. We have presented our evidence and shown the signifcant level of opposition to the plan. While we haven’t had the same financial resources to throw at this, we have had something that money can’t buy.. the truth. Thank you to everyone who took the time to attend and speak at the inquiry, as well as those who submitted written representations. It really motivated us to work harder as we knew how important this was and is to the community.
There’s not much more we can do now, except wait. We are at a critical cross-roads for the future of Monton, Eccles and Salford. One road will drag us back to a time of heavy industry where we can once again “take one for the team” and have our quality of life diminished for the sake of those who want to make their money regardless of the impact on others. The other road, is the one we’ve been travelling for the last 10 years. One where we not only continue to regenerate our community, but also take part in moulding the future of our area and aspire to bringing “real” sustainable developments like those envisioned by the Bridgewater Masterplan.
This is a momentous decision which will affect not only our futures but our children’s futures. While we have no evidence of which way this will go, we have to have some faith that common sense, democracy and humanity will prevail.
Now we wait.