Gypsy and Traveller family win fight to keep countryside home

Entrance gate and gravel drive way leading up to blue mobile home.
-Credit: (Image: Google)

A Gypsy and Traveller family has won the fight to keep their home in the Fenland countryside. The family successfully overturned Fenland District Council’s decision to refuse planning permission for their home in Gall’s Drove, Wisbech St Mary. The planning inspector said the district council could not offer any available or suitable other places for the family to live.

Sarah Smith had applied for planning permission to redevelop a field to have a mobile home, one touring caravan, and an ancillary dayroom. The district council refused to give permission for the proposals arguing the site was in an “isolated” area of the countryside, where development should be restricted to what was essential for local agriculture, horticulture, forestry, outdoor recreation, transport, or utility services.

The authority also initially said it was “not convinced” the applicant met the definition of a Gypsy and Traveller, but later conceded they did. Ms Smith appealed to the planning inspectorate against the district council’s refusal to grant planning permission. The planning inspector who assessed the application did raise concerns about the home being located on land in flood zone three, which they said had a “high probability of flooding”.

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The inspector said the flood risk added “considerable negative weight” to the balance of the planning application. However, they acknowledged that steps could be taken to manage the flood risk. The inspector also said there was “significant weight” in support of the plans due to the fact that there was an immediate unmet need for Gypsy and Traveller homes in the district.

The planning inspector said the district council did not have an up to date assessment of the number of pitches needed in the area for the Gypsy and Traveller community. They also said there were currently 16 people on the waiting list for a pitch at one of the authority’s five sites.

The inspector added that the district council had not been able to offer up any available, suitable and affordable alternatives for where the family could live. They said: “It has been identified that the appeal proposal is contributing to meeting an immediate unmet need for Gypsy and Traveller sites in the district.

“This is a community benefit of significant weight, even on the basis of the provision of just one pitch, particularly in a district where site identification for Gypsy and Traveller sites is proving problematic. It would also go towards achieving a five year supply of deliverable land for the provision of new Gypsy sites.

“These benefits when considered cumulatively amount to substantial eight in favour of the proposal. The inability to quantify the extent of the need for pitches adds further weight in favour of the proposal. Further positive weighting also ensues as the proposal offers a settled base giving access to domestic facilities such as private washing and toileting, along with a family pitch and mobile home. This would maintain the traditional Gypsy way of life.”

The planning inspector said they believed the benefits of granting permission for the home outweighed the harms of the development. They therefore decided to allow the appeal and granted planning permission for the home.

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