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Public Inquiry Session 2
 
 
 
Thursday June 21st 2007
 

Following on from one of our supporter's cricketing analogy of the opening day of the resumed Inquiry, the following two days are detailed as below in a more conventional vein. 

At 10.00am precisely, Mr Chapman rang his Mineral Water Bottle Bell to signify the opening of the sixth day of the Radley Lakes Public Inquiry.

 

Dr Basil Crowley, returned to the stand to be quizzed on his investigations into the provenance of Barbed Wire which had taken him considerable days to research and a long time to read out the afternoon before.

 

Mr Mynors, for NPower, was non-plussed with the weight of the document and tried to understand the relationship of the photos forgetting the picture numbers were for identification purposes, and did not form part of the page numbering process upon which the Mr Chapman relied but the two Barristers did not.   To Dr Crowley's disappoinment, he decided not to cross examine too much for fear of bringing out too much information. He did query Dr. Crowley's professional qualifications, a Physicist who graduated from New College Oxford, which seemed to satisfy him in some respects.

Mr Mynors was spotted during the break lying on the floor with his assistant proferring a cushion for his aching back, and was advised to take a trip down to Radley Lakes to take the curative waters. His response seemed to indicate that he had.  Perhaps that was how he got his back injury. Did he trip over a strand of carefully uncovered barbed wire which had mysteriously appeared in the intervening weeks.    Dr Crowley's report had thrown up some interesting aspects.  The barbed wire was changing positions.  A Photograph taken in October 2005 showed the position of the barbed wire and the number of strands on a particular post, taken as the Marathon runners came by.  A photograph of the same post, from the same position, taken after the adjournment, showed the wire had moved, it had acquired another strand, and staples had been put in the post, and there were holes where previously there had been staples.  Another photograph seemed to reveal that the barbed wire had been changed yet again when a further visit researching the barbed wire was taken and compared with the previous two.  Strange things afoot here.  A fetishist with a yen for moving barbed wire about old posts?  and barbed wire was appearing all over the site where previously none could be found.

Mr Mynors concluded that he might agree with Dr Crowley who would not agree that the strands of barbed wire were evidence of a fence, that they might well have been the remnants of an ad hoc and haphazard fence put up in an unworkmanlike manner.

The fence down the eastern side of the Thrupp Lake was to form part of the cross-examination for some considerable time.   Mr Petchey gradually chipped away at the testimony taking a note here and a note there of people's answers about his fences, although it was not apparent to everyone why such a inquisition should take place about a rotten old fence.  Mr. Petchey obviously knew, as he is also a Planning Inspector when he is not acting in Planning Inquiries.  This fence played a big part in access to the site and it was important to know how it was installed.

Mr. Drysdale came to the stand and, in total, was subjected to NPower's Counsel's examination as well as SRL's.  For five and half hours, with a couple of breaks to allow other witnesses who had come forward to speak for SRL, he fielded questions about the age of his fence, when he installed it, why he installed it?   Could he remember when the Lake was drained?  When did he take ownership?  This apparently was in 1972 when he took over from his uncle. Prior to that his uncle had been of a mind to allow free use of the lake for fishing etc, but this was to change with the new ownership.  A fishing club was formed, and the water-ski-ing club moved from Lakes A/B to Thrupp Lake when he obtained planning permission to build a club-house and manager's dwelling on the site in 1974, finally getting Building Regulations Approval towards the end of 1976.

However, he received a visit from the CEGB, in around 1982, saying they were going to fill his lake.  So The Vale of White Horse varied the planning permission so he did not have to build the club house at his request.  From then on he negotiated for some considerable time with the CEGB, eventually getting a stay of execution in the form of an option for ten years, which would expire in 1995 but with a further two year period of extension.  He was in negotiations with NPower by this time who decided to let the option go because, in the words of their own representative John Norton when he eventually took the stand,   "They had a second option and this one was let go. It was purely a commercial decision".  

With the threat of infilling removed and the planning blight released on his home, Mr. Drysdale decided he should sell up and the Plyers came to live in what had been Mr. Drysdale's home, and it was to them that NPower came back in 2003 to try and purchase the land which they had let go in 1997.  Had they miscalculated?  More likely is the scenario that coal became cheap and they burnt more of it, and thus needed increased ash disposal facilities.  However, the Plyers turned them down in 2003, but they kept returning until in 2005 a deal was struck, with Mr. Drysdale helping in the negotiations, he said, to allow NPower to take over the land.  The rest, as you know, is the history of this Campaign.

Mr. Petchey, for SRL, drew attention to a set of Ordnance Survey Maps.  The first was drawn in 1933 and clearly showed a boundary fence.  However two later maps did not seem to show a fence, and he suggested to the witness that his fence had become delapidated to such an extent that the Surveyor had not included it in the 1992 map.  The witness decided that the Cartographer was inept and said so.  He maintained the fence was definitely there to stop people swimming in Thrupp Lake from the byway (BOAT no 9).  He had stopped quite a few people swimming because of his watersking activities, the safety aspects were his concern, and he had prevented a few people picknicking on the North Side of Thrupp Lake, where he had eventually put a post and rail fence, which was largely intact at the present day, although there were quite a few gaps in it.  He did say he had not told birdwatchers to leave his land.

The Lake was drained was it not?  Mr Drysdale agreed.  In about 1992, or was it 1991 he couldn't quite remember.  What he did remember was that it took about 4-5 weeks to fill up again.  He said it had been drained altogether for 4 months.  Mr Petchey suggested that must have been expensive to have a pump on hire for all that time.  Well, you didn't need a pump to drain it completely because there were deep holes and most of the fish were collected in the holes. He said that the carp he recovered and sold went for £5000 apiece.  He had drained the lake because fishermen were using it without being a member of his Fishing Club and paying their dues, so he decided that no-one would fish there and that took care of the need to police the area for permits or the lack of them.

After he had drained the lake and before he filled it back up, he put a big net with floats on it across the landing stage of Sandles to the North side, and stocked it with trout.  Here he indulged the sport of fly-fishing, but one year it got very hot and the fish died.  He found it notable that no one had mentioned his line of bouys which supported his net.  Mr. Petchey said that would be expected because it had only just been mentioned and no witness had previously been asked because Mr Drysdale had only just mentioned it. It had not been in his witness statement.

Mr. Thomas, who was aiding Mr. Petchey had produced a sight line map with views radiating out from Sandles.  This was to demonstrate that ther was restricted views and you could not see the whole of the lake from one point.  Mr. Drysdale disagreed with this hypothesis calling it a "nonsense". NPower's counsel got short shrift for the same map, when they coloured in the lines of sight and this map was given the same treatment.  However, Mr. Chapman quietly punched two holes in the map and put it in his bundle of documents to be considered at a later date.

Dr Lesley Clyne came to the stand to give Mr. Drysdale a break, and told the hearing how he had used the Lakes regularly since 1985.  He had found himself compelled to speak out having listened to the testimony on Monday of John Dunleavy who had found solace in the open expanse of water, as had Jo Cartmell, when experiencing a family bereavement.  He had found solace there when had had problems in his life.  He said that Mr. Drysdale should have felt privileged to own such a beautiful home and ought to have found pleasure in sharing the beauty of he lake.  He told NPower that they knew the price of everything and the value of nothing.

Mr. Oliver Tickell came to the stand, having heard of the Inquiry and wished to say that he had swum in all of the Radley Lakes, in Thrupp and Bullfield when he felt like an experiment from his usual haunt on Lakes H/I.  He cycled over from Oxford with friends to enjoy this form of recreation but his life had changed of late and he found he had not so much spare time as he had previously to enjoy visits to Radley Lakes.

Then Mr. Curtis took the stand.  He very quietly told the hearing that his statement was incorrect.  It said he was Managing Director of a Company that was formed in 1980 when in fact it was 1880.  One wondered if he had made the statement himself he would not have made such a fundamental error.  The phraseology of all of the objectors' witness statements was very similar, but it would be mischievous to suggest that they might all have been the work of the same hand.

Mr Mynors for NPower, when it was queried about the size of the Contractors' Compound for the Lake H.I filling which was cross hatched in red, for an area the size of four football pitches, stated the map was diagramatical.  Mr. Petchey rose to his feet and responded, saying, "you are saying it is incorrect". "Well yes, no, it is diagrammatical" said Mr. Mynors.  "Incorrect" said Mr. Petchey.  "Quite so, Sir", he replied very quietly lest the Inspector should hear.  Mr. Curtis said firstly that he could not remember the Contractor's Compond, and then said on reflection maybe he though the compound was there for two years.  However, he returned to his witness statement to carry on reading, and lo and behold, it said there it was in situ for six months.  Mr Curtis immediately realised his error and looked to Mr. Mynors - "I should have said six month" .  Mr. Mynors responded swiftly - I expect you confused it with the period of the Lease. 

  Friday 22 nd June 2007.
 

An early start had been requested by Mr. Mynors for Friday 22nd June.  So at 9.30.am. the Inquiry re-opened and Mr Curtis came back to the witness stand. His recollections of the Bullfield were such that he thought it an uninteresting lake – that's probably to justify his original plans to fill it with fuel ash – dissent to this rippled through the audience. Although, he said, he found Thrupp Lake much more attractive.

 

He agreed that the area was attractive to people and had encountered loads of people walking their dogs near his concrete plant and he shooed them away because of Health and Safety Concerns. He had never told anyone walking elsewhere on his land to leave, his only concern was safety, and had he realised his land could be turned into a Town or Village Green he might have acted differently.

 

He tried to make out that only fishermen walked round the Bullfield and walkers would not go there. This was despite countless reports from witnesses that they had navigated the Bullfield in their meanderings round the lake.

 

Mr Petchey examined his files and drew out an agreement with the Oxford Angling Alliance which expired in 2005, which had a clause in it for them to provide Bailiffs – as if – and to prevent people visiting with intent to poach fish. This was agreed that it did not include a clause asking the Alliance to prevent trespass – not that the Alliance seemed to ever have provided Bailiffs.

 

It was clear that Mr. Curtis could not remember NPower's Compound. . Little by little Mr Petchey chipped at the evidence. Mr. Curtis admitted that the gate to the Bunk Line was open a lot of the time when they were working there, it wasn't locked, people could get through although it might not be very safe, but they did.

 

He recalled a time when he welded up the gate and someone took an angle grinder to it and ensured that access was available. This was said with an air of resignation that indicated passive acceptance of the use of his land.

He said his main gate was always locked on evenings and weekends, but admitted that lots of people had keys and it may be that they didn't shut his gate as they should do.  There had been evidence delivered by SRL that his gate was open late on Saturday nights and Sundays and fly tipping had been discovered on his land which had been reported to the Environment Agency.

 

Next to the stand came John Norton FRICS – NPower's Estate Agent. He had worked for them for 30 years, which belied his youthful appearance – perhaps he went to them straight from school and did a FRICS on day release, but no, he said he had a BSc in Geography from Bristol University . He loved maps and would buy one just to look at it – you don't have to be mad to work for NPower – but it obviously helps.

 

Guided by Mr Mynors, he read through his evidence, which was substantial but not of substance. It consisted of reported views of other people. He purported to know what the Plyers views were when his only correspondence seemed to be an email to which a terse reply had been received telling him to stuff off, and his own visits to the area, which had numbered about half a dozen in all the years he had been employed by NPower. Three of these had been at the time of the purchase of Sandles from the Plyers. Not exactly reliable evidence, but here he was endorsing the evidence of the others who had gone before him, and carefully avoiding answering questions which might appear to do him disservice in the eyes of his employer - another representative of whom kept a close eye on Mr Norton throughout his time on the stand.

 

He poured scorn on the OS Maps which had been provided by Mr. Petchey yet when Mr Petchey drew his attention to his very own maps, it transpired he had used the same base data, well almost – there was yet another map which was in the public domain and on which NPower had based their plans. This seemed to have a favourable bias towards Mr Drysdale's fence which later maps had disregarded. Mr Petchey pressed on. The combination of an Ariel photograph and a Microfiche Map so discounted by Mr Norton were brought into play with NPower's own map. Oh well, yes they had greatly enlarged the hatched area of their plan of the compound but this was just to show the area that was leased not necessarily the area that was in use. If the Inspector assumed it had blocked off a substantial portion of the site, who were they to disabuse him of this fact. They had not reckoned with the watchful eyes of Mr. Faulkner though. He had  informed Mr Petchey of the true size of the compound and the location of NPower's plant and equipment.

 

What was the area that was in use as a compound ? Well Mr Norton had visited about three times and as he was asked the same question in different guises, he gave three different answers. First of all he said there was only a fence at the back of the portacabins. Then the fence round the portacabins only had three sides. Then he corrected himself and said it must have had four sides otherwise it was of no use. Then he later said it covered the whole of the concrete area, which was discounted by evidence that lorries passed through there, eight wheelers and they would need some room to pass. So he invented a gate in the Aris fencing through which the lorries would pass – yeah right - you can just see the lorry drivers getting out of their cabs to open two gates and then two more and closing them all! Mr Petchey pounced on these inventions - Mr. Faulkner had told him that the plant and equipment was not stored in the compound and was left on Lakes H/I so he was mistaken.

 

Well, he concluded, he couldn't really remember after all it was a long time ago. He was sure he saw plant by the portacabins – it was probably teasels – they go in profusion round there.

 

Happy to pass a professional opinion on the quality of the cartography of the OS Maps he refused to give a professional opinion on the position of the islands has determined by the Ariel photograph and the Maps which had been provided, and particularly in relation to Mr. Docker Drysdale's plan which had been submitted to the enquiry. He had procured this when he sold the house to the Plyers, but when it was examined, Mr Norton was forced to admit that it bore little resemblance to NPower's own map which had been submitted as part of their planning enquiry, yet they were pouring scorn on the OS Map-Makers but were happy to rely on them in another instance.

 

He scorned Dr Crowley's barbed wire report. No one had tampered with the wire he declared, but could not explain the photographs.  Possibly he had told the Contractors not to remove the barbed wire, but could not remember when he gave them that instruction. March the 8th he thought, but weren't they supposed to have stopped work on the 1st ?  Mr Petchey didn't bother to ask this question .  So, the Barbed Wire which mysteriously appeared in places where it could not be seen previously was still a mystery.

 

Finally he was released from his seat – a man who had scoured the site for further evidence which was submitted that day to the Inquiry but had not been forwarded to the Applicant. A photo of an old sign saying Private or it started with a P… it could have said Parking for all that could be seen from it. But he had determined to serve his employer and scrounging round in the undergrowth he had found this sign, which according to Bob Eeles who knows the site inside out was dumped there with a load of builder's rubble.

 

Then back to the stand came Dr. Clyne. He wished to make a final statement. He had walked everywhere and had never been told to sling his hook. He felt it had to be made clear to the Inquiry that there had been open access despite what NPower's Surveyor was trying to portray.

 

So with no more witnesses available, Mr. Chapman closed the Inquiry without a ring on his water bottle bell, and directed the two opposing Barristers to do some homework on eight points on legal matters which he would like their views. This is obviously a test to their legal knowledge and immediately the Barrister for NPower, to show his prowess, quoted two legal cases which could be used. The Barrister for SRL quietly replied that he would be much obliged by his learned friend's advice and would wait to hear further.

 

The upturned Swan's Nest was emptied bit by bit of the paraphernalia of the legal process. Mr Chapman packed his case which had now grown fat with the contents of all the witness evidence.

 

The Radley Coot who made this report is now returning to the nest. The Radley Swan wishes everyone a happy summer – does that include NPower? Well, may the sun shine on the righteous…and NPower KVONs* get a good soaking

 

(Know the Value of Nothing)

 
 
The previous session in April was detailed on the Radley Parish Website because, due to incapacity, the SRL webmaster was unable to make the report for that session, but is now back in service albeit part-time.
 
 

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