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Enforcement: Inspector grants planning permission for residential gypsy site

Words: Laura Edgar
Residential gypsy site approved / Shutterstock_456410779

An inspector has quashed an enforcement notice and approved a residential gypsy caravan site in Staffordshire, taking into consideration the best interests of the children involved in the case.

The site, subject to two appeals, is land to the south of Gravelly Lane, Stonnall, Walsall, Staffordshire. It lies within the Stonnall Neighbourhood Plan 2014-29 area.

The appellant’s family and two other families would occupy the site.

Lichfield District Council issued an enforcement notice to the appellant against the change of use of the land to a residential gypsy caravan site, which includes the formation of a hardstanding area, and stationing and residential occupation of three caravans on the land. The period given to stop using the site for residential purposes was three months.

The council also refused planning permission for the development.

The appeal proceeded on the grounds that planning permission should be granted (a); steps to comply with the notice are excessive (f); and time given to comply with the notice is too short (g).

Inspector K L Williams did not dispute that the development would be inappropriate given its location in the green belt, but assessed the effect it would have on the openness and purposes of the green belt, and the effect on the character and appearance of the area. Williams also considered personal circumstances, human rights and the best interests of children.

The inspector said the proposed hardstanding would have “little effect” on openness, but that the presence of mobile homes, touring caravans, an amenity building, fencing and related vehicles, and domestic items “would significantly reduce openness”.

“There would also be a conflict with the green belt purpose of assisting in safeguarding the countryside from encroachment,” said Williams, adding though that the extent of this would be limited to a degree because of the “modest extent of the land on which the caravans would be stationed”. In addition, the inspector found that policy NR2 of the district’s local plan is not consistent with the National Planning Policy Framework published this year and therefore attributed moderate weight to this conflict.

The inspector noted that one of people living on the site has significant medical conditions and relies on easy access to a local health centre. Should the appeals fail, said Williams, the families would probably have to leave the site.

“This would result in an interference with their human rights with regard to Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. It encompasses respect for family life and the home.”

Williams felt that that best interests of the child living on the site and the expected child would be to remain on the site and for it to be developed as proposed. The report states that although similar benefits, such as access to healthcare and education, might be found on another settled site, a suitable site has not been identified. A prolonged absence of a settled site would lead to disruption to the access of such benefits for these children. “These matters weigh in the appellant’s favour,” said the inspector.

Williams concluded that any harm to the green belt and the character of the site “would be clearly outweighed by other considerations”.

“Taking into account in particular the best interests of the children in this case I find that there are very special circumstances which would justify the granting of planning permission in both appeals subject to appropriate conditions.”

The enforcement notice was quashed and planning permission was granted with conditions.

The inspector’s report – case reference 3181628 – can be read for free here.