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Inquiry QC Axed

A top barrister who was set to represent the council at a government inquiry into 1,036 homes and a Ryder Cup golf course has been axed.

Bolton Council will no longer be employing David Elvin QC of Landmark Chambers, a planning law specialist, for the Hulton Park inquiry.

Tower FM understands that junior barrister Matthew Dale Harris alone will argue in favour of Peel’s plans, following the planning committee’s decision to approve them last year.

This comes after councillors voted to cuts costs for the three-week hearing, which will start on October 1, to the statutory minimum.

Sandra Hesketh, secretary of Hulton Estate Area Residents Together (HEART), said it is “excellent” news.

She said: “I’m delighted because it’s completely over the top to have this very expensive QC when they were calling only one witness.”

The local authority had intended to use specialist planning and development consultants Quod as expert witness at the hearing, but this is also being reconsidered.

Council leader David Greenhalgh said the decision to employ leading barristers was made before he came to power two months ago.

The Conservative chief is looking to make a saving on the public inquiry which could cost in the region of a quarter of a million pounds.

The last invoice for the lead silk was for attending a meeting on the June 11, eight days before the motion to minimise costs was heard in the council chambers.

He said: “The new administration is committed to reducing the costs on the Hulton Park public inquiry. We have ended the appointment of the lead barrister.”

But Labour councillor Nick Peel said the decisions were made by officers and not by elected members.

The former executive cabinet member, who abstained from voting on the council motion last month, welcomed the news but warned of a “dangerous precedent” it could set.

He said: “It could go the other way. Let’s say if planning refuse something and the developer appealed. We have potentially opened up the door to a political decision that we are not going to defend that.”

A full report on the inquiry will be brought to the next cabinet meeting on July 29.

After the inquiry, the total figure of savings will be made public.

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