Public Inquiry Opens Into St. Alban's Church

Community and church groups attend the hearing in Ealing

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The Public Inquiry into the St. Alban's planning application opened today (Jan 29) at Pitzhanger Manor in Ealing.

The inquiry was adjourned for a short time early on in the proceedings while the group representing community interests discussed whether they wanted to seek an adjournment following the provision of some late documentation from the developers of the site.

The St. Alban's Community Association (SACA) which is seeking to have the site retained for community use, was granted Rule Six status, giving it the ability to put forward its own case for opposing the application, to bring its own evidence and ask questions.

The developers of the site, who are seeking permission to be granted to convert the disused church at South Parade into ten residential flats and two two-storey buildings are Oaktree Court (Bedford Park) Ltd, a company set up for the purpose of developing the site. Also present were representatives of Caterpillar Montessori Nursery School, the current school on the site which is also in favour of development.

Mr. Alastair Dias was present from Oaktree Court and Laurence and Melanie Haward from Caterpillar Nursery.

There were several representatives from community and church groups who have expressed interest in using the site and local residents and councillors including Cllr Harold Rose and Cllr Gerald Mc Gregor- the latter is supporting an Anglican primary school for the site.

Ealing Council last year refused permission to a planning application for a residential development, overturning advice from planning officials. The developers appealed the decision and it was referred to the Planning Inspectorate which initiated to the Inquiry.

The hearing was adjourned for a time during the morning when the late submission of documents from the developer was challenged initially by Ealing Council's legal representative, and then by SACA representative Mr. Chris Chauncy.

The matter at issue concerned the amount to be paid as S106 monies by the developer to Ealing Council, as provision for affordable housing. The developer queried the sum which was advised by Savills at £2 million.

Ealing Council's legal representative Mr. Hugh Flanagan said this matter had become 'contentious' last Friday when the developer had said the maximum they could provide was £177,000. The Council felt this should have been previously stated. Mr. Timothy Conyn, for the developer, said that they could not accept the £ 2 million figure and had only been recently made aware of it.

Mr. Chauncy challenged it on the grounds that the appellants had plenty of time to bring this matter up. He felt it would be unfair, unjust and wrong to allow documentation which had been provided so late in the day to become part of the hearing and the outcome should be determined by what was already there in the prepared reports. Both ' Statements of Case' and 'Proofs of Evidence' had been provided before the deadline by Ealing Borough Council and by SACA, who both oppose the planning application.

Mr. Michael Aldous, for the Inspectorate, said while this did disadvantage everyone, they could either adjourn the entire hearing to a later date and seek expert advice or he could accept the inclusion of this late documentation as it would help him to better understand the appellant's case.

After a short adjournement, the SACA and residents groups agreed that the hearing should proceed as planned although they reiterated their objection to the Inspectorate agreeing to allow the inclusion of the late documentation from the developer.

The hearing is scheduled to continue for three days.

January 25, 2013