Expert witness

Green Balance is an established town planning and environment consultancy with considerable expertise, and independence from vested interests, which can be called upon at public inquiries. We are practised at working with barristers and other consultants in a team to ensure that the client’s case is presented seamlessly, on time and effectively.

Supporting an environmentally sound mineral operation at a public inquiry

Green Balance supported the mineral company Robert Brett & Sons Ltd who wished to develop an aggregates recycling plant at Hithermoor Quarry in Surrey, where excavations were soon expected to be concluded.  The site was beside the M25 close to Heathrow Airport with good access to a supply of recyclable aggregates.  Green Balance was persuaded of the merits of this scheme, despite it being in the Green Belt, because:

  • considerable material would be recycled to the highest grade technically achievable;
  • the maximum feasible use would be made of all materials brought to the site;
  • unusable inert materials would be sent to refill and restore degraded former gravel pits nearby;
  • the proposal was for a temporary operation of 10 years, and therefore reversible;
  • the environmental impacts of all operations could be kept to acceptable levels.

 

Hithermoor Quarry, Spelthorne, Surrey in operation in 2001

Green Balance had a key role in devising the practical aspects of materials handling and lorry routing.  We provided the planning policy expertise for the scheme and worked with other experts on the preparation of an Environmental Impact Assessment.  When the proposal was refused permission by Surrey County Council due mainly to its Green Belt location, Green Balance provided the expert planning witness for the subsequent public inquiry in 2002, supporting Queen’s Counsel for the mineral company.

Following our evidence, the Secretary of State, supporting the Inspector, concluded in 2003 that there were many benefits of the proposal in terms of restoration, recycling policy and waste management.  These would constitute very special circumstances which would outweigh the identified harm and inappropriateness (especially of the concreting and roadstone plants) to the Green Belt.  The main part of the Green Balance case to the inquiry was therefore supported by the Inspector and Secretary of State.

Despite this, the deliverability of the proposal was in doubt because this required the co-operation of another mineral company.  In the event, that company declined to sign a legal agreement with Robert Brett & Sons Ltd within the two months allowed by the Secretary of State, so the scheme had to be refused.  Some years later, the company secured an alternative permission for aggregates recycling at Hithermoor, restoring other degraded land instead.

Green Balance has worked with barristers at public inquiries on various other occasions, such as at the inquiry into a block-making factory at Borough Green, Kent (see Local Campaigns for more information).

Our work for clients as expert witness at public inquiries is extensive, for example at the recent test case Lancashire fracking inquiry (read more in Minerals in the Fracking section).  We often combine this with the role of advocate (read more in Advocacy).

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