Inquiry stopped in tracks

Campaigners against plans to divert a footpath path in Hucknall, which would connect with a proposed new traffic island on the A611 Bypass.
Campaigners against plans to divert a footpath path in Hucknall, which would connect with a proposed new traffic island on the A611 Bypass.

A public inquiry into the proposed diversion of a popular Hucknall footpath was dramatically stopped in its tracks this week.

The application is part of plans by Muse Developments for a roundabout on Hucknall bypass and an access road to a proposed business park on the Rolls-Royce site.

The hearing was told that the applicant claimed the planning go-ahead had already been granted for the development which would entail the diversion.

In fact, Ashfield District Council had not formally given planning permission, which meant that full public consultation had not been carried out.

Planning inspector Helen Slade said: “I am constrained by natural justice not to confirm the order as it stands because it is invalid.

“I’m sorry it has not been possible to continue with the inquiry but under the circumstances the best way forward is to start afresh.”

About 20 residents attended the hearing, held at Ashfield District Council Offices, Kirkby-in-Ashfield.

Several of them were from the Reach Out residents group, which strongly opposes the diversion.

The footpath, which links Hucknall with Bulwell Hall Park, is well used by local people, including children.

But if the diversion gets the green light, they would be confronted by the new road to reach the picturesque Farleys Spring, which is on the path’s route.

Ned Westaway, who represented both the council and the applicant, said: “In these circumstances, the only sensible option is for us to remake the order as quickly as possible and proceed to consultation in the usual way.

“We would hope that when it comes back to the inquiry, it can be dealt with as expeditiously as possible.

“This is a very significant and important development for the Ashfield district. A lot of thought and care has gone into it.”

In a statement on behalf of the objectors, whom he represented at the hearing, Tom Carter said: “I am pleased that the planning inspector recognised that the wording of Ashfield District Council’s order was unlawful.

“It is worrying that the council spent public money pursuing this issue despite objections from a large number of residents. The council wants to demolish a precious part of Hucknall’s history needlessly and without regard to local residents.”

Reach Out chairman Sally Wyatt said: “We feel that now due process will take place, things will be done right and we will have a chance to look at the new order with a view to making comments on it. We aim to keep people informed about what will happen.”