Ex­pan­sion of trav­ellers’ camp gets the go-ahead

Ini­tial re­jec­tion over­ruled due to lack of sites

Kentish Gazette Canterbury & District - - Front Page - By Gerry War­ren gwar­ren@thek­m­group.co.uk @Ger­ry_war­ren

Gyp­sies have won a land­mark bat­tle to ex­pand a car­a­van camp after a plan­ning in­spec­tor ruled Can­ter­bury City Council has failed to iden­tify enough trav­ellers’ sites in the dis­trict.

The au­thor­ity had re­jected an ap­pli­ca­tion for eight more car­a­vans at Moate Farm off Stod­marsh Road in Ford­wich.

But the in­spec­tor has now over­ruled the de­ci­sion and granted per­mis­sion, blam­ing the council’s lack of trav­eller pro­vi­sion as the main rea­son.

In­spec­tor Richard Clegg said there was a “clear, ex­ist­ing need” for gypsy and trav­eller sites in the dis­trict, which was not cur­rently be­ing met by the council or ear­marked in its Lo­cal Plan.

He also con­sid­ered that although there would be some ad­verse ef­fect on the char­ac­ter and ap­pear­ance of the area, it was out­weighed by the ben­e­fits of the pro­posal.

It is not a view shared by Ford­wich Town Council and the Friends of Ford­wich, which have been fight­ing the sit­ing of car­a­vans at Moate Farm for more than 15 years.

The plot now has per­mis­sion for up to 14 static car­a­vans as well as tour­ing car­a­vans, with op­po­nents sus­pect­ing the lat­est rul­ing will pave the way for a con­tin­u­ing ex­pan­sion.

Town coun­cil­lor Roger Green says pre­vi­ous ap­pli­ca­tions for more mo­bile homes had been re­jected by in­spec­tors, the most re­cent specif­i­cally re­fer­ring to pre­vent­ing fur­ther en­croach­ment into the coun­try­side.

“We thought we pre­sented a very strong case against the ap­pli­ca­tion and were op­ti­mistic the in­spec­tor would up­hold the council’s de­ci­sion,” he said. “But now it looks like there is noth­ing to stop the site con­tin­u­ing to grow.”

The lat­est pro­posal was re­fused by the city council’s plan­ning com­mit­tee on the grounds it was against its pol­icy on de­vel­op­ing in the coun­try­side, as well as pre­sent­ing high­way safety is­sues and threats to pro­tected wildlife.

But Mr Clegg dis­missed the con­cerns, say­ing the site was sus­tain­able for trav­ellers and ad­e­quately screened.

Ad­dress­ing his com­ments about pro­vi­sion for gypsy and trav­eller sites in the dis­trict, council spokesman Rob Davies ad­mits the au­thor­ity does not have a five-year sup­ply.

He added: “The ap­pli­ca­tion for Moate Farm was re­fused on the grounds of the land­scape, eco­log­i­cal and traf­fic im­pact. Be­tween our de­ci­sion and the ap­peal be­ing held, the ap­pli­cant pro­vided the plan­ning in­spec­tor with fur­ther in­for­ma­tion on these is­sues.

“In as­sess­ing the ap­peal, the in­spec­tor on bal­ance con­cluded the needs of the ap­pli­cant out­weighed any plan­ning con­cerns and granted the ap­pli­ca­tion.

“We are cur­rently as­sess­ing the level of gypsy and trav­eller need in the dis­trict, which will de­ter­mine the num­ber of sites that are re­quired. Next year, we will pro­duce and con­sult on a draft plan for this.”

Joe Jones, of the Gypsy Council, said coun­cils were wast­ing thou­sands fight­ing ap­peals which they were los­ing due to the short­age of trav­eller sites.

He claims lo­cal au­thor­i­ties are giv­ing mis­lead­ing statis­tics about the ex­ist­ing pro­vi­sion and cal­cu­lates that at least 40 ex­tra per­ma­nent pitches are needed in the dis­trict.

“The trou­ble is that even if new sites are in­cluded in the Lo­cal Plan, some coun­cil­lors will still force a de­bate at plan­ning meet­ings and get them re­fused which in­evitably leads to a plan­ning ap­peal and more

Moate Farm in Stod­marsh Road has been given ap­proval for up to 14 more static car­a­vans

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