County council begins work on CLR

April 16th, 2012 by Kate Griffin Leave a reply »

We’re still waiting for the outcome of the Cogges Link Road inquiry, but it appears that Oxfordshire County Council has jumped the gun and begun work without waiting to hear what the Department of Transport says. Members of Witney First report that digging has begun at the Farm Mill Lane site (adjacent to the Sainsburys roundabout).

Witney First consider that planning permission for the Cogges Link Road expired on 6 April 2012 because the pre-commencement conditions were not legally and properly discharged within the three-year time limit.

Planning permission for the road was originally granted in 1997, but work did not begin then, mainly because of funding problems. The county council applied again and received planning permission on 7 April 2009. (It’s worth noting that since the county council is the local planning authority for Oxfordshire, the council was actually applying to itself for the planning permission.) Planning permissions are normally granted with various conditions attached, usually including the condition that work will begin within three years.

In the meantime, the Secretary of State had responded to the environmental concerns of residents and ordered that a full Environmental Impact Assessment  had to be carried out.[1] This put the county council under a fresh set of legal obligations with regard to the CLR. It is these obligations which Witney First is highlighting. [2]

The council should have made an application to discharge the conditions of the planning permission and made this application public. The county council has also failed to state in the decision notice that it had taken into account the environmental information, which is also required by the regulations.

Witney First contacted the county council to challenge the legality of beginning work without carrying out the necessary steps, and received the following response:

The County Council as Local Planning Authority considers that the planning permission for the Cogges Link Road ref W.14.08 is valid as at today’s date. Whilst enforcement is not a matter for the County Planning Authority, it is the opinion of the County Planning Authority that it would not be expedient to take enforcement action in respect of the development that has been carried out.

Whilst the Council as Local Planning Authority considers the consents are valid, for the avoidance of doubt an application to discharge various conditions attached to the planning permission has been submitted to the Council today [4th April 2012]. This will be considered in accordance with all relevant legislation and any environmental information received in respect of these conditions will be advertised as required.

In other words, on 4 April 2012, the county council submitted an application (to itself, but to itself with a different “hat” on) to discharge the planning permission conditions. Witney First takes this as indicating that the council had not already properly discharged the conditions during the period of nearly three years leading up to this.

Confusing? Yes. But the short version is: the county council has begun work on this controversial scheme while serious doubts remain as to whether it has any legal right to do so.

1. In legal terms: a Side Roads Order and Compulsory Purchase Order was applied (in 2002)
2. Town & Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 1999 & 2011


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