Home is where the inquiry is – eventually

September 22nd, 2011 by Kate Griffin Leave a reply »

The Cogges Link Road public inquiry opened on Tuesday… and was adjourned just five minutes later. The chosen venue, the Lindsay Room at Eynsham Hall, proved to be much too small to accommodate all the members of the public who turned up.

The Sustainable Witney blog outlined other problems with the venue weeks ago: we pointed out that it is much harder to get to by public transport than by car, which could easily discourage non-drivers (especially those with disabilities) from attending.

Despite this barrier to attendance, over 150 people turned up on the first day; great news for democracy but not such good news for the smooth running of the inquiry in a room whose seated capacity is just 55. But this wasn’t the only problem.

10am. People squashed up at the back and spilling out of the door struggled to hear the planning inspector’s opening remarks, as the venue’s PA system was playing up. There were cries of “Louder!” and “Can’t hear!” and the inspector decided to adjourn the meeting just a few minutes after opening it, in order to sort out the problems.

10:30am. After half an hour, the inquiry reopened – only to adjourn again immediately for a further half hour.

11am. The inquiry was reopened for a third time, this time with news of a venue change. The planning inspector announced (through the newly-fixed PA system) that the inquiry would be adjourned yet again and reopened at the Methodist Church in Witney on Thursday 22nd (today.)

One man asked why it was suddenly possible to move to the Methodist Church when the county council had previously stated that all Witney options were exhausted. The planning inspector confirmed that this had been his understanding as well and couldn’t explain the county council’s sudden change of heart.

Sustainable Witney recently blogged about how the county council chose Eynsham Hall over the Methodist Church in the first place. Factors included the church’s “inferior facilities” and Eynsham Hall’s wheelchair-accessible suite. This is highly ironic in the light of the Lindsay Room’s broken PA system. I can also confirm that the women’s toilet facilities weren’t ideal: the nearest ladies’ room has just one cubicle, and it’s much too small for a wheelchair.

Eynsham Hall is a beautiful place with much to recommend it, but the part being used for the inquiry was really not adequate for the purpose. And that’s not the fault of the venue – it’s the fault of the county council, who misjudged numbers, failed to think about the needs of non-drivers, failed to think about people with disabilities and failed to check essential equipment was working before the start. Thanks to them, what could have been a well attended and well run planning meeting ended up so farcical that it even made the BBC News.

But all’s well that ends well: we finally have a sensible venue for the inquiry. I hope many more Witney residents will be there when the inquiry reopens on

Thursday 22nd September (today)
10am at Witney Methodist Church.

Click here for a map to the new venue.

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