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HIGHWAY SAFETY IS KEY FACTOR IN APARTMENT BLOCK PLANNING BATTLE

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Opponents to plans for an apartment block in Wolverhampton have triumphed in a High Court fight against the scheme,...
Opponents to plans for an apartment block in Wolverhampton have triumphed in a High Court fight against the scheme, which they claimed would cause traffic problems.

Local resident John Ashton, a member of the Mount Road Action Group, has triumphed in a court move in which he asked Mr Justice Harrison to quash the decision of a government planning inspector to grant planning permission for the two-storey development on Mount Road, Tettenhall Wood.

The judge agreed, quashed the order, and ordered the ODPM to have the matter reconsidered by another inspector.

In February 2003, Wolverhampton City Council refused Bromley Estates Ltd planning permission for the development, which would involve the demolition of a bungalow on the site, and the creation of a seven-apartment block with parking.

The council rejected the scheme on the basis that the proposed driveway would not be wide enough to allow vehicles to enter and exit at the same time, and so would lead to 'conflicts' occurring at the entry point on Mount Road.

Bromley Estates appealed to the inspector, putting forward an amended scheme with a wider driveway which the council felt met its concerns.

However, Mr Ashton and MRAG were not satisfied by the amendments, and opposed the proposal on highway safety grounds during the public inquiry into the plans held by the inspector.

The inspector nevertheless granted planning permission last September, but Mr Ashton then took his fight to the High Court, where he claimed the inspector made an error of law in his approach to highway safety, and failed to deal with the evidence and arguments on that issue put forward by him and MRAG.

He argued that he was concerned about the poor visibility at the development's access point, and the proximity of other substandard accesses on Mount Road.

He claimed that, as a result of the combination of problems, the proposal would have an 'unacceptable impact on road safety, and cause accidents'.

He based his claim on his own knowledge of local road conditions, referring in particular to the 'significant' amounts of traffic that would be using the proposed access, and the excessive speed of traffic on Mount Road, as well as a study carried out by leading highway and transportation consultant, Halcrow, paid for out of his own pocket.

He argued that Halcrow considered that highway safety should be a 'key issue' in considering this planning application, and found that speeds on Mount Road were 'commonly in excess of the 30mph speed limit'. He says the firm also highlighted the restrictions on visibility, and ultimately concluded the scheme should be refused.

The judge ruled that the inspector had erred in his handling of a key calculation when considering visibility splays, and had failed to take into consideration Mr Ashton's suggested figures. He said the matter was 'not so clear cut enough as to make it obvious' that the inspector would have reached the same conclusion if he had taken them into account.

STRAND NEWS SERVICE

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