Josef Cannon KC and Jack Barber acting in recovered public inquiry into controversial new prison

25 Mar 2024

Inquests and Inquiries

On Monday 25 March 2024, an inspector will re-open a planning inquiry in an appeal by the Ministry of Justice against Chorley Borough Council’s decision to refuse planning permission for a large prison in the vicinity of two existing prisons (HMP Garth and HMP Wymott) and within the Green Belt (Appeal Ref. 3295556). The re-opened inquiry will sit virtually, initially for four days.

The appeal was recovered by the Secretary of State in June 2022. The inquiry originally sat for eight days in July 2022. The Inspector subsequently recommended the dismissal of the appeal and refusal of planning permission on the basis that the benefits of the scheme did not clearly outweigh its harms, taken together, such as to amount to very special circumstances.

In January 2023, the Secretary of State took the unusual step of issuing an interim letter stating that whilst he accepted the Inspector’s findings, he was nevertheless minded to allow the appeal and grant planning permission, subject to the parties providing further evidence on highways safety to satisfy him that there would be no unacceptable adverse impacts from the appeal scheme. The Council and the Rule 6 party each maintain their highways objections at the re-opened inquiry, which will mostly focus on whether the identified highways safety issues have been adequately addressed.

Josef Cannon KC and Jack Barber (together with Matthew Wyard) are representing the Rule 6 party, Ulnes Walton Action Group, via Advocate, the Bar’s pro bono charity. Josef was previously nominated as Junior Pro Bono Barrister of the Year for his work on the case, and the re-opened inquiry will be Josef’s first since taking silk last week. Separately, Jack previously represented another Rule 6 party in a public inquiry about a new prison in Leicestershire (Appeal Ref. 3300227).