Day 12 of the inquiry began with the cross-examination of Mr Chris Woodhead by MVV’s barrister, Mr Mark Westmoreland Smith. Mr Westmoreland Smith asked whether the reduction of the speed limit proposed in the development could be seen as a benefit. Mr Woodhead stated that it would not a have a large effect on the speeds at which people actually drive and thus could not be seen as a benefit. Mr Woodhead was then asked about whether a benefit could be seen to exist from the creation of jobs, both directly and indirectly, as a result of the scheme. Mr Woodhead once again denied any benefit, saying that these would not be significant compared to the jobs that would be lost as a result. The same went regarding the benefits to local businesses.
The acoustics of the proposed development were then examined. Mr Westmoreland Smith stated that the amphitheatre effect created by the topography of the quarry and its stone walls was already taken into account in the model put forward by Mr Maneylaws, MVV’s acoustics expert. He also inquired whether Mr Woodhead had proposed an alternative acoustic model to replace Mr Maneylaws’, to which Mr Woodhead replied that he had not.
Next came the re-examination. Mr Charlie Hopkins re-established that the burden of proof was on the appellants, MVV, to show that there would be no adverse effects as a result of the proposed development. Thus, there was no need for Mr Woodhead to have completed his own detailed surveys or acoustic models in order to benefit Buckfastleigh Community Forum’s case.
The Planning Inspector asked questions of Mr Woodhead about the conservation area boundary in relation to the site and the effects of the proposed development on the conservation area. Mr Woodhead replied that the proposed development will negatively impact on the area, on its overall character. The Planning Inspector inquired about the removal of the spur and the view of the quarry from various sites throughout the town and surrounding area. He will visit sites including those at higher vantage points.
Mr Charlie Hopkins for Buckfastleigh Community Forum then began examination in chief of Dr Mike Rodger, who has been a qualified doctor since 2001, currently orthopaedic surgeon in the trauma unit of Royal Devon Exeter Hospital and a resident of Buckfastleigh since 2008. Dr Rodger’s Evidence document
Dr Rodger directed his attention to the independent Health Impact Assessment (HIA), stating that this approach recognises the layperson and takes into account the concerns of the public. The Health Impact Assessment was a ‘Rapid Desktop’ exercise conducted by NHS Devon with input from Environment Agency, Environmental Health, Health Protection Agency, Devon County Council, the appellant MVV and Buckfastleigh Community Forum. The results of the HIA should be valued equally alongside expert opinion and scientific data. From Dr Rodger’s evidence document:
- “Health is listed as a guiding principle of the UK Sustainable Development Strategy Securing the Future, based on Resolution 42/187 of the United Nations General Assembly of sustainable development. The World Health Organisation (WHO) Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948 states that “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health, and well-being of himself and his family…“.
- This proposal does little to promote healthy, inclusive communities (contrary to the National Planning Policy Framework, Para 69)
He confirmed the health concerns that the HIA flagged (see HIA Results page), and expressed his concern with the efficacy of the mitigation measures proposed and their enforcement.
Dr Rodger then went on to the Household Survey and the 174 letters sent by local residents raising health concerns to Devon County Council. The health concerns from all sources were consistent with each other. While some of the concerns from both these sources were addressed in the HIA, this cannot be seen to have done away with public concern, although it was suggested by MVV that it should have. Dr Rodger highlighted the real and individual risks that the proposal is likely have on the public. This was helpful in bringing the concerns to a personal level as opposed to the broader more conceptual level that MVV have consistently used.
For example, Dr Rodger mentioned that the proposed development could make it more difficult and unpleasant for residents of nearby nursing homes to sit in their gardens and to cross the road into town. It is common sense not to mix HGVs with pedestrians. There are serious and real concerns about air and water borne pollutants that accumulate over time, in that the body does not process and dispose of these but accumulates them causing detrimental health affects. With regard to dust impacts – people felt they would be unable to eat locally grown vegetables with dust on them. Dr Rodger referred to nursing homes, sheltered housing and nurseries with children, all along the proposed HGV routes, who would be detrimentally affected.
Additionally he mentioned the adverse effects the scheme would have on those with respiratory conditions. Any increase in dust, air borne pollutants, fine particulates, even within allowed thresholds, has adverse effects on people with a wide range of respiratory conditions. The idea of mitigation measures is that thresholds are hopefully not exceeded – this will do nothing to protect people with respiratory conditions.
Dr Rodger expressed the concern that having three responsible agencies – the Environmental Health Officer, Devon County Council and the Environment Agency – looking to monitor and enforce mitigation measures where there are boundaries of responsibility could leave room for mis-communication and allow things to fall through the cracks. He compared this to the faults of the multi-agency approach regarding child protection and suggested that it would similarly fail in this context.
In conclusion of his examination in chief, Mr Charlie Hopkins asked Dr Rodger if the evidence he produced satisfies the test required. Dr Rodger replied he has done this in spare time, but there is a great deal of evidence to show the effects of HGV and noise pollution on people and that evidence is robust – there is a direct and adverse affect of increased traffic on people’s health. If one of the these conceptual models have got it wrong then effects will be substantial.
Mr Westmoreland Smith then began his cross-examination of Dr Rodger. Mr Westmoreland Smith questioned Dr Rodger about the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and suggested it was concerned with social well being as opposed to clinical health. However, Dr Rodger considered social well-being not to exclude clinical health.
This moved to the more specific discussion of noise levels, stating that the National Planning Policy Framework laid out that adverse impacts from noise must be avoided. Although a threshold level has been laid out in the scheme, Dr Rodger suggested that there was no safe level and any exacerbation of noise will lead to an increase in risk. Additionally, he highlighted that the noise levels were averaged in a way that ignored intermittent high noise, which could cause very significant effects on the public.
Mr Westmoreland Smith then brought Dr Rodger to the conclusions of the Health Impact Assessment, the wording of the Household Survey and the number of HGV movements. He asked Dr Rodger if he was for or against the lowering of the speed limit as proposed on the different stretches of the HGC routes. Dr Rodger replied he would be for lowering the speed limit but was not convinced it would work to lower the speed at which vehicles, including HGVs, travel along the B3380.
The re-examination, by Mr Charlie Hopkins, consisted of only a few matters of clarification, such as Mr Rugg’s proof for MVV where he considered the relationship between road safety and speed and concluded no relationship between speed and accidents with HGVs. Dr Rodger stated he found this a surprising conclusion to draw as the severity of accidents would be grossly different between 20mph and 40mph.
The Inspector, John Woolcock, then asked whether Dr Rodger had any concerns about the enforcement of the limits on HGV number proposed in the scheme. Dr Rodger pointed that his concerns stemmed from the lack of detail in the provisions stating that there were no mechanisms to count HGV movements and limit their numbers.
Dr Rodger was also asked by the Planning Inspector about his concern identifying policy provisions to protect areas of tranquillity – are there areas that should be protected. To which Dr Rodger replied the green, swimming pool and park, playing field, gardens of houses – Buckfastleigh is generally a tranquil place.
The day concluded with all the parties discussing the Section 106 obligations and other consideration of the scheme. Nothing was finalised here, with the Inspector saying he needed to sleep on it before making a decision.
The inquiry will resume tomorrow at 10am with Hannah Fraser’s evidence and with the day ending with a local session.