Advocacy

Green Balance provides an advocacy service for planning inquiries, examinations of development plans and similar occasions. We are experienced in cross-examining witnesses of other parties and in taking advantage of round-table forums. We also help clients’ own witnesses so that these events promote clients’ views with the least possible stress. Our engagement can save money both because we are normally cheaper than barristers with equivalent skills and because duplication of costs can be avoided when we are already acting for clients as expert witness.

Public Examinations of local authority development plans

Green Balance has extensive experience at contributing to these round-table forums where an Inspector leads discussion topic by topic.  These are intensive and competitive events amongst a variety of often opposing parties, within a format designed to identify the merits of arguments without undue stress.  We can strike an effective balance between:

  • reiterating points made previously in writing (often finding new perspectives);
  • challenging other evidence; and
  • making new points.

The way we express evidence is intended to stick in the Inspector’s mind.

Examples of Examinations of local authority plans in which Green Balance has successfully acted as advocate are at:

  • the Vale of the White Horse Local Plan in 2015-16 (in respect of development around Harwell Campus: see Countryside);
  • the West Berkshire Core Strategy in 2010-11 (see Advocacy Case Study)
  • the Sevenoaks Core Strategy in 2010, where we took a significant part in stopping the creation of a new village on top of the North Downs scarp at Fort Halstead in the Kent Downs AONB overlooking Sevenoaks;
  • the Surrey Minerals Plan in 2010 (in respect of the Eashing Farm site: see Local Campaigns); and earlier
  • the Dacorum Local Plan in 2000 (in respect of Fields End Farm, Hemel Hempstead: see Green Belt Case Study).

Public inquiries into development proposals

Green Balance has considerable experience of taking an advocacy role at public inquiries, often at the same time as acting as a client’s expert witness.  Some examples are presented in more detail in case studies:

Backdale Quarry in the Peak District National Park

We also act solely as advocate at inquiries, preparing carefully with witnesses chosen by our clients to give evidence.  Green Balance represented the Save Longstone Edge Group and the Campaign to Protect Rural England (Peak District and South Yorkshire Branch) at an enforcement inquiry into development at Backdale Quarry in the Peak District National Park in 2005.  Inappropriate development at this site has now been halted by the High Court, but at the time the quarry was widely viewed as damaging to the image of the industry as well as to the landscape of the National Park.  The central issue concerned the appearance of the site as an aggregates quarry whereas the developer argued that he was lawfully quarrying for fluorspar within the limestone.  In the event the inquiry was halted at an early stage for technical reasons.

Many solar arrays can be fitted into the landscape on low quality ground, but the North Wessex Downs AONB Unit was particularly concerned by proposals for about 150,000 panels covering 67 hectares on Wroughton airfield, Swindon.  At the public inquiry in 2014, Green Balance helped the Unit present evidence to best effect (but did not cross-examine the promoter's witnesses).  Natural England and English Heritage also objected to the scheme, which was in a prominent position in a large landscape overlooked by the ancient Barbury Castle hillfort and The Ridgeway National Trail.  Revealing how perceptions can be very different, the impact on landscape character was described by the AONB Unit's professional landscape consultant as 'major negative'.  However, the Inspector concluded it would be only 'slight adverse', and decided that the overall effect on character and visual amenity would be 'less than substantial'.

Wroughton airfield looking north from Barbury Castle, Swindon. The solar array would cover the entire ‘green grassland’ area between the east-west boundary hedge and the east-west main runway in front of the white hangars in the middle of the photo (bisected by a runway on the slope).

Also see:

Get in touch

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Case study

Heritage

Green Balance saved North Frith House More »

Case study

Landscape

AONB setting protected from development More »

Case study

Minerals

Test case saving of National Park More »

Case study

Eddington Hill, Hungerford from Port Down

Advocacy

Plan Examination reins back AONB housing More »