It is very disappointing news to hear that the appeal of Kingsbury Estate Ltd has been upheld and that planning permission will after all be granted. As someone who attended the inquiry, I would like to make a few comments.
Although the Inspector who presided over the inquiry remained scrupulously impartial, I do feel that this process was weighted firmly in favour of the appellants for the following reasons.
Firstly, the appellants had, together with a company called Town and Country Planning Solutions, engaged a very expensive counsel, Mr Clay, to represent them. He argued a very targeted and detailed case, picking off Brighton and Hove Council’s objections only (some of which, it appeared, had already been conceded before the public inquiry began). Mr Clay did not respond to the larger, and in my view, more forceful issues raised by the other interested parties who attended.
Secondly, Brighton and Hove Council, presented an extremely limited case – nothing on the traffic implications, nothing on the school implications, nothing on the stability issue (which I was nevertheless able to raise during the course of the inquiry). Why not ?
Thirdly, the manner in which the case was presented by B and H’s counsel was weak. At times, it felt as if the Council’s representatives were merely going through the motions of contesting the appeal. They were certainly no match for Mr Clay. The Council’s hesitant case was thrown into sharp relief by the commitment demonstrated by the other speakers who contributed to the case against the development, local people who will be directly affected by it. Nevertheless, tactically, Mr Clay was able to ignore them and concentrate solely on the Council’s limited case. A cynical observer might well draw conclusions from this mismatch.
But I shall suspend my cynicism and only point out the possible positives that have come out of the inquiry.
Firstly, it is a condition of the development going ahead that the stability of the cliffs beneath the site is investigated. The findings could well make the cost of developing the land for residential use unviable for a developer.
Secondly, we are in the midst of a recession that is impacting hugely on the building industry and the property market. It may well be that, as happened last time planning permission was given, there will be no rush to commence the building work. The planning permission granted must be begun before the expiration of three years.
Let’s hope the greed that has swallowed up this once public asset will not prosper in what’s left of the free market.