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29/11/01 News
Ridgewell Appeal Decision
In September we issued an alert appealing for support for Ridgewell in their appeal against enforcement notices. The appeal decision was announced recently, finding in favour of the Essex Gliding Club on 3 of 4 issues. The club have issued the following press release...

Essex Gliding Club has received the decision letter concerning its recent appeals against Enforcement Notices originally served by Braintree District Council seeking to deny some of our rights. As we predicted, our mobile units have been declared entirely lawful. The structures in contention were a mobile home used as a briefing and meeting room, two containers on wheels, and a mobile glider store also on wheels. All had been moved around the site at various times, and they had been acquired only following legal advice that they were lawful. Unfortunately the Council, urged on by an unrepresentative pressure group, challenged this without ascertaining all the facts, exaggerated the size of the glider store by over 100 percent in their evidence to the Public Inquiry and had to admit they were wrong, and lost their case on all three items.

"It is a pity that taxpayers money as well as ours has been spent in arguing legal points that might have been settled in a meeting" said a spokesperson for the Club.

On a fourth issue, whether certain land had acquired a 10-year use for gliding and so was lawful, the inspector upheld the Council's view that the early use was insufficient to have created a material change more than ten years ago. The Council had originally told the Gliding Club that the disputed area had planning permission, but later changed its mind. The Club had used the land in question based on the Council's original advice.

The Public Inquiry was held on October 2nd, 3rd and (after an adjournment) October 12th. The Council gave written evidence, repeated on oath, that the original planning permission covered an area of only 13 acres. They had supported this over a period of years with several plans, all claimed to be original documents dating back to 1976, but all different, only one being authentic and that was too unclear to show a defined area. The others appear to be forgeries, by some unknown persons. The area on the plans varied from 14 to 20 acres. The most recent map, sent to the Planning Inspectorate as though it were an original 1976 plan, showed an area of 17 acres, and was different from all previous "original" plans. In written evidence, the Council said "There appears to be some discrepancies in the plans that relate to the extent of land covered in the planning permission. Further clarification on this matter will be given at the Inquiry." They provided no such clarification at the Public Inquiry.

The Club's spokesperson said  "We are not surprised that the Council did not explain why they had used so many different maps - it must be difficult to admit using forgeries. The Inspector's decision appears to be a fine legal point, certainly contrary to our barrister's opinion, and we are studying its implications.  Sadly, it is likely to have an effect least wanted by neighbouring residents, the Council, and ourselves. If it prevents us from using our almost inaudible winch on many days because of the lack of sufficient area for the winch cable, we shall be forced to use more towing by a powered aircraft which is audible from many dwellings in the district. We shall also have to keep all our equipment in a prominent position visible from public roads, not behind a hedge on land we already own and out of everybody's sight. It seems a real own-goal by the minority of activists who have forced this decision to be made, and the worst possible result environmentally. No doubt if any local people suffer more disturbance as a result, they will make their views known to those who have caused the problem.

"We have never sought confrontation with our neighbours. We wish to enjoy our legal rights, to intrude on others as little as possible, and to provide a facility for anyone living locally to enjoy. We hope the Council will now stop issuing false information, leave us alone, and cease both their harassment and the waste of taxpayers' money."

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