Radley Lakes public inquiry, 20th - 22nd June

| 12th July 2007
The continuing story of one community's struggle against nPower who are still planning to fill Thrupp lake with ash from their Didcot coal-fired power station.

The nPower legal team, far outnumbering their witnesses, could claim no supporters at the Inquiry. The well-behaved Save Radley Lakes Campaigners turned out to welcome Mr. Chapman, the Inspector, and behaved impeccably throughout the proceedings.

The witnesses gave their evidence. Each aimed to show how their historical and continued use of the lakes justified its classification as a town green.

One told of how, when he lived in Abingdon, he visited the area three times a week and more. He would go birdwatching and walk his dog. He knew the names of people’s dogs that he met, but rarely the owners’ names. When his father died he spent a considerable amount of time gazing over the open water of Thrupp Lake because it seemed to bring solace. 

Dr. Guyoncourt, an active campaigner, told the hearing that he had made many visits birdwatching and measured over 2000 trees by the lakes with the help of local conservationists. A number of these trees were felled by nPower with no word yet of a prosecution by the Forestry Commission.

Ray Faulkner had visited the lakes daily for almost thirty years. He has also seen an otter near Lakes H/I - a species whose presence at the Lake nPower categorically denies. He was asked whether he had noticed the fence put there to prevent access.
'A fence is there to keep people out or stop people falling in a hole', declared Mr. Faulkner. 'A bit of barbed wire hanging off a tree don't make a fence in my book!'

Appearing for the objectors, one-time land-owner Mr. Drysdale poured scorn on the OS Maps - widely regarded as the UK's most authoritative geographical surveys - saying that the cartologists didn’t know how to do their jobs properly! People were not welcome on his land, he said, but birdwatchers were permitted. Unsure of the date when he drained his lake, he did remember selling the fish and how much the carp were worth. £5,000 apiece. He had inherited the lake from his uncle who had previously allowed local people free access to Thrupp Lake, but this had changed with his ownership. In his opinion, the land couldn't be called a 'Green'.

Mr. Curtis, another objector, seemed to know very little about his land. He rarely walked the area, and believed only fishermen ever walked round his lake, despite the countless witnesses who had said otherwise.

Embarassingly for nPower, aerial photographs brought to the inquiry by Dr Crowley forced the power company to admit that their site plan was incorrect.
'With apologies to the Inspector it was diagrammatical rather than actual,' said Counsel for nPower. 

The final witness for nPower was their estate agent. He had only visited the area about six times in total, yet professed to know all there was to know. He poured scorn on the OS Maps too, and said he liked nothing better than to go out and buy a good map and read it and play detective. But the egg was on his face when it was later revealed that he had used the same OS maps in drawing up nPower's official plans! It was clear from the cross examination by Mr. Petchey that he actually knew very little.

On asking whether there was anyone who had anything further to say, Dr. Clyne came forward to reinforce his previous evidence. He had said that nPower was a company which knew the price of everything and the value of nothing. He said Mr. Drysdale should feel privileged to have had such a wonderful home and should not have resented sharing his lake. Like many others he had roamed everywhere and had never been told to leave the land.

The Inspector closed the hearing having given each barrister some homework -  eight points on which he required legal arguments to be submitted by the 14th July.  He would then write his own report and recommendation, which may be sent to Oxfordshire County Council by September.

Support the campaign by visiting www.saveradleylakes.org.uk

Click here to listen to the Radley Lakes Podcast.

This article first appeared in the Ecologist July 2007

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