‘It felt like a court room’

The inquiry into the Eastern Area Plan has been described as an intimidating experience by some of those who took part.

Members of the public were invited to make their views known on the Cabinet Office’s proposals for land use across the most populated part of the Island.

The inquiry, which was chaired by independent planning inspector Mike Hurley, closed on 2 October.

Despite being billed as ‘inquisitorial, rather than adversarial’, some described the cross-examination by barristers as uncomfortable.

Witnesses and those observing from the public gallery described some of the exchanges as disrespectful, bullying and ‘like a courtroom’.

Both developers and the government employed top UK legal professionals to advance their cases, with QC John Barrett being paid £200 an hour to represent the Cabinet Office.

MLC Jane Poole-Wilson says this ‘inequality of arms’ is a problem, whilst others have called for more support to be offered to those appearing at planning inquiries.

The Cabinet Office has stressed its legal representation was acting for ‘the public at large’ to ensure adequate zoning of land, and was not for or against any particular party.

Local Democracy Reporter Ewan Gawne spoke to members of the public Eleri Young and John Kermode,  who witnessed proceedings:

MLC Jane Poole-Wilson and MHK Rob Callister feel debating with top barristers was difficult for those without a background in planning:

Source and audio interviews: Manx Radio