Councillor's caravan saga continues as committee makes decision

Councillor Ron Shepherd, inset and the land off Bradley Road
-Credit: (Image: Google/NELC)

A more than decade-long saga over a councillor and his caravans will continue after only temporary permission was given.

Cllr Ron Shepherd sought permanent permission for two residential caravans at his Shepherds Purse shop and farm, located north of Waltham off Bradley Road. This included replacement of one caravan with a larger version. He has had two temporary permissions for three years each, in 2017, and renewed in 2021.

Council officers recommended refusal. Cllr Shepherd’s application made the case that significant development was just around the corner and had been made.

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Bradley Parish Council objected, and a few neighbours too. It also had “a lot of support from neighbours” a council officer told North East Lincolnshire Council’s planning committee.

Before the first temporary permission, Cllr Shepherd had had two permission refusals and briefly in 2010 an enforcement notice was issued to remove a caravan. The latest application took three quarters of an hour to be decided on. Cllr Shepherd was not present, but agent Dieter Nelson spoke in favour.

A council officer explained the overall scale of farm activities was a key consideration. An access track was installed for camping pods granted permission two years ago, but this seemed to be the only notable progress deemed by officers.

It is outside any settlement boundary of the local plan, so exceptions are required to allow occupancy. "It's not considered that there's reasonable justification here to continue the situation of the caravans of the site," the officer said.

The pandemic, Avian influenza lockdowns, and serious family illnesses were cited in the application as challenges faced to develop the business in recent years. Mr Nelson said the applicant was "frustrated" by the delays in it coming before the committee, having originally applied in November. "Rather than the application being refused, the applicant would accept a further three year period to allow the business to grow."

A drainage condition discharge was cited as holding up the development of the glamping site. Mr Nelson said this should have been determined by the council by February but had only come through last Friday. "The pods are ordered and the deposits have been paid," he added. He argued the residential caravans were necessary for security and administration of camping users.

Security incidents cited included in August 2023, when "a significant amount of fish were stolen" from the site's pond, and on one occasion next door had been burgled.

"Will the council ever support small rural businesses," Mr Nelson said Cllr Shepherd had wondered, and they were reluctant to commit further investment with the uncertainty.

Cllr Henry Hudson noted the business's prior progress, before continuing: "They had awful bad luck with family tragedy. When that happens, life goes on hold."

"What was a thriving busy little business has suffered because of mitigating circumstances." He added: "I just feel they're so close to achieving what they set out to do."

Cllr Ian Lindley, often strongly opposed to housing outside development boundaries, was supportive. "I think there's clear signs of investment," he said, noting the glamping pods access track. "Clearly, as Cllr Hudson alluded to, they have a vision," he said. The family had been "blighted with bad luck".

"I think there's clear signs of investment" said a very supportive Cllr Ian Lindley, pictured
"I think there's clear signs of investment" said a very supportive Cllr Ian Lindley, pictured -Credit:NELINCS

"Bradley Parish Council had put some quite damning comments in there, but when you consider how far it is from Bradley, I think they're unjust, the site is quite isolated. If there's no-one available on that site, we know what's going to happen, rural crime's on the increase," he said.

"What we need to be looking at is if this family is moved off site, what is going to happen," said Cllr Lloyd Emmerson. He noted when campaigning previously there, Wolds Ward residents raised rural crime and anti-social behaviour.

Lining up in opposition or scepticism were Cllrs Matthew Patrick, Paul Bright, Kevin Shutt and Edward Kaczmarek. "I'm really not convinced by this application at all," said Cllr Patrick.

"Frankly, all of the planning permission previously should not have been granted before." Cllr Bright said national and local planning policy were clear that there had to be special justification to develop outside the boundaries. "It's unfortunate what's happened to the family, but it's been seven years. I don't see any reason to allow residential accommodation."

"I do find it challenging that someone with very good business acumen would not realise that the site isn't dedicated for a caravan," said Cllr Shutt, in terms of a business plan. But he was conscious the business seemed "nearly there". Cllr Kaczmarek noted chicken sheds and buildings were approved in 2008. "It's been nearly 16 years, how much has it actually developed past gates and chicken sheds?" He later added: "I think it's generous to give any sort of extension on top."

Cllr Ron Shepherd, pictured after a previous council meeting in 2023
Cllr Ron Shepherd, pictured after a previous council meeting in 2023 -Credit:GrimsbyLive/Donna Clifford

A three year temporary permission was proposed by Cllr Hudson. It was passed by six votes to three, with one abstention. All five Conservative members voted in favour.