The Cogges Link Road inquiry: your chance to catch up

November 19th, 2011 by Kate Griffin Leave a reply »

The Cogges Link Road (CLR) inquiry returns on Wednesday 30th November for what may be its final day. In the meantime, here’s a quick guide to what it’s all about and (at the bottom) links to blog posts which summarise each day of the inquiry so far.

What’s the inquiry about?

It’s an inquiry into a compulsory purchase order (CPO). Compulsory purchase orders allow certain bodies to buy land without the consent of the land’s owner. In this case, Oxfordshire County Council wants to buy land from the Mawle Trust in order to build a road. This road has been named the Cogges Link Road, or CLR.

If the owner of land subject to a CPO objects to being forced to sell their land, they can challenge this legally. This gives them the right to have their case heard by an independent inspector. This is what the Mawle Trust have done.

The local authority carrying out a CPO has to demonstrate that the taking of the land is necessary and that there is a “compelling case in the public interest”. It is the inspector’s job to ascertain whether this is the case.

Who is the inspector?
The public inquiry inspector is Stephen Roscoe BENG MSC CENG MIC. He works for a company called Persona Associates, an independent consultancy which employs professionals to work on public inquiries.

Persona Associates is recognised by the Planning Inspectorate for England and Wales, which handles certain compulsory purchase orders and is an agency of the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG). In other words, the inspector is working on behalf of central government.

So who makes the decision?

In principle, the decision on a compulsory purchase order rests with the relevant Secretary of State. In this case, that would be the Secretary of State for Transport, Justine Greening MP. However, it’s not possible for the Secretary of State to attend each individual inquiry even if they had the relevant specialist knowledge (which they usually don’t). That’s why they employ specialist consultancies like Persona Associates. After hearing all the evidence, the inspector brings his specialist knowledge to bear on his decision, which he will then submit to the Department of Transport. In theory the inspector’s decision is just a recommendation, because it needs to be rubber-stamped by the relevant government department before it becomes binding. However, in practice, government departments do tend to accept the recommendations of planning inspectors.

So… this is about planning permission?
No. Planning permission for the road has already been granted, in 2009. This is just about whether Oxfordshire County Council is legally justified in compulsorily purchasing the Mawle Trust’s land.

So do the Mawle Trust own all the land needed to build the road?
No. The land earmarked for the Cogges Link Road is divided into several plots, owned by various people and organisations including Witney Town Council. But none of the other landowners have objected to the compulsory purchase order.

Where’s this road going to be anyway?
The county council’s layout plan will give you an idea.

What’s the next step?
The inquiry returns to Witney Methodist Church on Wednesday 30th November for closing submissions. At the moment, it’s not entirely clear whether or not this will be the final day. It’s also not clear when a decision will be reached. Persona Associates have created some pages about the inquiry on their website, but at the time of writing the programme is not up to date. It’s usually more effective to ring the Programme Officer, Graham Groom, on 07860 636909.

How do I keep up to date with this?

You can…

  • Keep checking out the Witney First website
  • Keep reading the Sustainable Witney blog (you can sign up for email alerts using the contact form).
  • Follow Witney First on Twitter (@WitneyFirst)

But please bear in mind that Witney First and Sustainable Witney are run by ordinary members of the public who don’t necessarily have access to all the information that the key players in the inquiry have. We’re all volunteers, doing this in our spare time.

I missed all the reporting you’ve been doing…
Fear not! Here’s a summary of each day of the inquiry so far.

The first day that never was
Day 1 proper
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5
Day 6
Day 7
Day 8
Day 9
Day 10
Day 11
Day 12
Day 13
Day 14
Day 15
Day 16

Day 17 (final day)

Many thanks to Alex Kinchesh of Witney First, whose email updates provided a lot of the material for our blog.

Edited 9th Feb to name the correct secretary of state and government department. Originally we incorrectly stated that it was the Dept. of Communities and Local Government and that Eric Pickles was the relevant minister.

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