Day 5 Monday March 19
The day started with the Trust presenting its case, which challenged Sinclair’s definition of “amenity” after-use, and argued that “amenity” more than covered lowland raised bog through the historic Section 106 Agreements.
Rob Stoneman, right, the Trust’s expert witness, made a powerful case that the local authorities were right to refuse permission because of their responsibilities under the Habitats Directive. He went on to argue that the more peat that was left on the site the easier it would be to restore, and he defended the Trust’s management of the 12 Yards Rd SBI. Rob stood up excellently under cross examination, reinforcing many of the key points he had made earlier.
After that the cross examination of Graham Dickman from Wigan was resumed. Graham was asked why Wigan had cited the impacts on 12 Yards Rd as a reason for refusal when the site was not in their area. Graham reiterated his earlier view that you should take an integrated view of the site and not let an administrative boundary get in the way. He indicated that, unlike Salford, Wigan will not be asking for a bond to cover restoration work.
Sinclairs continue to argue that Chat Moss is the best site relative to others, if you accept the need for peat. They say that there is not enough suitable material for non peat alternatives. When Graham praised the government for taking a lead in Europe over peat, Sinclairs made the extraordinary comparison with the kind of leadership that resulted in the Charge of the Light Brigade!
Graham made the excellent point, reinforced by the Inspector, that whilst national policies like MPG7 required “an adequate supply” of minerals like peat, these should be seen in the context of other UK policies eg the zero peat targets.
The day ended with Bernard Burns the Chief Exec of Sinclairs presenting his evidence. It is clear that a large part of Sinclairs case will rest on the availability of alternatives to peat. Whilst there is a large supply of green compost, BB argued that it needed to be diluted with other materials before it could be used as a growing medium.
BB will be cross examined on Tuesday. In the meanwhile it has emerged that Sinclairs are no longer offering a Section 106 Agreement and are seeking to negotiate conditions attached to any permission they get. The significance of this has yet to be clarified.