Inquiry Into St. Albans Church Site Concludes

A decision by the Planning Inspectorate expected end of April

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The Public Inquiry, conducted by Planning Inspector Michael Aldous, into the proposed residential development of the site at St. Alban’s church, Acton Green Common has concluded.  The result is expected in about a month.

Yesterday (March 26), Alistair Dias, director of Oaktree Court (Bedford Park) Ltd., who is seeking planning permission, was challenged to explain his contention that  the church had remained empty because it could not be used for community purposes. 

Both Ealing Council’s barrister, Hugh Flanagan of Cornerstone Chambers and Chris Chauncy representing St Alban’s Community Association (SACA) questioned Mr Dias to demonstrate why the site could not be brought fully back into community use.

Under cross examination Alistair Dias explained that, although Oaktree Court had entered into its contract with the Church of England over six years ago, economic conditions had made residential development on the site uneconomic.  He claimed earlier in the hearing that the expressions of interest were not serious and that community uses were not viable. He had stated that no proper economic or business plan had been shown by any of the interested parties.

Inspector Michael Aldous concluded the cross-examination with several questions of his own, including asking Mr Dias if he thought that the time and effort taken by the interested community-use parties in preparing their cases and attending and presenting them at the inquiry did not demonstrate the seriousness of their interests.

After closing statements this morning from the three main parties, both the Council and Chris Chauncy for SACA put in claims for costs. This was based, they said, on the appellants’ failure to comply with the rules for submitting statements of case, proofs of evidence and other documents in the inquiry and their failure to substantiate a case.  Counsel for the appellants, Timothy Comyn of Francis Taylor buildings, did not dispute the failure to comply with rules, but denied that this had led to extra cost or that his clients had not made out their case for planning permission.

Mr Aldous closed the inquiry and said that a decision would be published around the end of April at the earliest.  He then conducted a visit to the St Alban's site and inspected the interior of its buildings and its surroundings.

March 27, 2013