May 21 2013 Latest news:
Saturday, March 2, 2013
No witnesses will be called to defend the position of Great Yarmouth outer harbour bosses at a forthcoming inquiry, the company’s barrister said.
Gregory Jones QC, instructed by Eliza O’Toole, vice-chairman of Great Yarmouth Port Company, announced the “surprising” move at yesterday’s pre-inquiry hearing.
The inquiry – on April 9, 10 and 11 at Yarmouth’s town hall – will examine whether it is right to grant the £80m port’s Harbour Revision Order (HRO) of 2010.
It was called by the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) and will be heard by a government inspector.
But because the port company is not calling on any witnesses, objectors will not be able to ask any questions of the port company’s evidence.
Inspector Lloyd Rodgers said: “I would expect the port company to try to convince me it is desirable to make the order.
“If you can do that without witnesses I would be surprised, frankly, but I will leave that with you.”
He told the hearing in the town hall’s assembly room that without being able to test written evidence, presented by Mr Jones as an advocate, he may not have as much “confidence” in it.
“If I believe there’s a question that’s essential that I need to ask, I have no facility to ask it,” added Mr Rodgers.
“Without a witness prepared to be cross-examined it’s a matter of my judgment what weight I give to it.”
But Mr Jones, for the port company, said his clients were “sceptical” of the need for an inquiry in the first place and were happy to base their argument on written documents alone.
“At the moment we’re not intending to call any witnesses,” he said. “I intend to make legal submissions.”
He added the scope of the inquiry should not stray from the HRO, though objectors have insisted the environmental impact of the outer harbour and the history of its privatisation are relevant.
“Our very firm position is that this transfer of powers is not an inquiry into the building of the outer harbour,” said Mr Jones. “With the greatest of respect to the objectors, this is not a forum to go behind an act of parliament.”
Objectors John Cooper, of Great Yarmouth Scrutiny and Heritage Group, and Michael Boon, retired chief executive of the port authority, are calling for confidential documents to be published ahead of the inquiry.
Mr Boon said these include the 99- year lease of the outer harbour, though Mr Jones would not comment on its existence – stating that to do so would be a “slippery slope”.
Mr Rodgers will decide whether to call for the documents to be released after seeing written submissions from both parties.
Other objectors at the meeting were Bourne Leisure, Great Yarmouth Port Users’ Association, Hopton Coastal Action Group, Dennis Durrant and Nick Pownall.
Police in Norwich have launched an investigation after a woman claimed in a tweet she had knocked a cyclist off their bike.
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