What Does "Without Further Delay" Mean?
After all the toxic EA behaviour that characterised the first water licence determination at Avoncliff we hoped that the organisation would abide by the terms of the High Court Consent Order that all parties agreed to on the 9th February 2012 and that a professional approach to discharging their statutory obligations would be adopted by the EA.
Unfortunately professional approach and statutory obligation appear to be alien concepts to certain individuals at the EA.
The Consent Order contains an undertaking from the Environment Agency "to consider the two competing applications on their merits in accordance with the approach outlined above, in order to determine what is in the public interest and to do so without further delay" (underline mine)
We weren't aware at the time of the Judicial Review that our licence had been approved by determining officials but blocked and hidden by certain other officials... but anyway - we agreed to a competitive determination on the merits of the schemes.
So... to the present process....
The Environment Agency must have a pretty elastic interpretation of what constitutes "without further delay" -
It is now 261 days since the EA signed the Consent Order (the Consent Order was enacted / given force of law by a Judges' signature 198 days ago)
The statutory window is 120 days beyond which non-determination appeals to The Planning Inspectorate apply (Extensions only by agreement with applicant - in this case there have been no such agreements this time around)
It is likely that the provisions of The Penfold Review imposes a 13 week (91 days) guillotine on statutory determination undertaken by the EA also apples in this case.
The High Court mandated re-determination of water licences at Avoncliff is clearly being messed with by the EA as two applications have been submitted and NOT DETERMINED and now, the EA are asking the parties at Avioncliff to re-apply again.
Bear in mind here that North Mill and Weavers's Mill have already been subjected to two rounds of licence applications each and the EA have accepted those applications and not determined them - and they have now asked Weaver's Mill to submit yet another application for full process (Adverttising, Public Consultation and subsequent determination = 6 months ++) North Mill's full licences have already been advertised, been though public scrutiny, have been determined and peer checked and are ready to go.
We have to say it again - what is going on ?
What are officials at the EA playing at ? In our opinion they are not working in the public interest, or adhering to their statutory duty and wasting piles of public money.
Are they repeatedly going around a loop in the hope that one time they'll get the answer that they have been trying to illegally impose from the start?
We've asked about what's going on - but the answer has a £37,500 price ticket dangling from it - and from previous experience it'll take 18 months and considerable effort to winch the truth (or a version of same) out of the officials who are busy perverting this whole process - although our agent will be happy to bill the EA again......
What's actually pretty exasperating is that the EA have claimed and asserted that they aren't bound by the provisions of the High Court Consent Order - All we can say is blimey!
In all quite a mess... and not, it has to be said - improving with the passage of time.
Why don't they want to give us our full licence?