A Cambridgeshire family has lost its battle with a district council to provide 10 gypsy/traveller pitches – each with a static and touring caravan. The Planning Inspectorate dismissed an appeal by A Buckley who appealed against a decision by East Cambridgeshire District Council.
Planning inspector Jonathan Price ruled against Mr Buckley despite agreeing the site “would provide a settled and secure base for the ten growing households”.
The site is on land north of Pools Road, Wilburton, Ely, and Mr Price heard evidence from both the council and Mr Buckley and his representatives at a public inquiry in Ely on August
Mr Price concluded: “The proposal will create a significant visual disturbance in the fen landscape that would be detrimental to the overall character of the area.”
The inspector said it was agreed by all parties that East Cambridgeshire’s accommodation assessment for gypsy and traveller housing was out of date.
But he said the main issues were the effect of the proposal on the character and appearance of the area, and whether the site would provide safe access, and be within a reasonable distance of regularly required services and facilities
The appeal site is a rectangular parcel of land to the south of Witchford.
Mr Price said it is laid mainly to grass and has been sub-divided into 10 paddocks; five either side of an access track running perpendicularly from a centrally located entrance from Pools Road.
Among issues raised, he said that although the vegetation provides some degree of visual enclosure, the proposed pitches would run deep into land that rises gently.
“This proposal would have a comparatively greater impact than existing traveller sites in the locality,” he said.
“These are mainly on shallower plots that run along the public highway, from where the visual impact would mainly be confined.
“This proposal would be along a stretch of road lacking traveller sites and much development at all.
“In such a context, the harm to the landscape from a deep incursion of ten caravan pitches would be particularly pronounced.
“The rising land would reduce the effectiveness of the front hedging in screening the pitches towards the rear of the site. Views from the road and through the vegetation, particularly during winter months, would be of development extending deep into the open landscape, accentuating the adverse visual impacts of the caravans and associated features.
“The proposal would have a particularly harmful effect on views from the public right of way running at an elevated height alongside the rear site boundary.
“From here, as well as approaching from the north along Grunty Fen Road, the ten pitches and their contents would be very prominent. The existing vegetation would not fully screen the pitches, but the hedging around the site might be maintained to soften views.
“The caravan pitches would nevertheless comprise a discordant feature within a surrounding undeveloped area of horse pastures, tree planting and farm land.”
He felt the proposal overall “would have a significant adverse impact on the countryside”.
The inspector agreed that meeting a need for gypsy and traveller accommodation “requires an inevitable degree of harm to the character and appearance of the rural landscape.
“However, due to the relatively attractive and unspoilt nature of the countryside along this section of Pools Road, the scale and depth of the incursion into this and the public views available from both the front and rear of the site, the degree of harm attracts substantial weight”.
Mr Price assessed the personal circumstances of the applicant and his family who “are currently living in sites dispersed around the county and in situations which are often less secure, overcrowded and where there is not the support of close family members that this proposal would provide.
“These personal circumstances also weigh significantly in favour of the proposal. In considering these, I have borne in mind Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights as this relates to a respect for private and family life.
“I have considered this in regard to the cultural aspects of gypsy and traveller life and the benefits of this proposal in bringing together a currently dispersed extended family.
“In this context, the best interests of the children involved has been my primary consideration. It is forefront in my mind that the mutual family support provided through a collective and settled base could be particularly beneficial towards meeting the health, welfare and educational needs of the children involved.
“However, these combined benefits are insufficient to outweigh the development plan conflict and associated adverse impacts. This is particularly given the substantial degree of harm found to the character and appearance of the countryside and the weight given to this.”
With the lack of an up-to-date five-year supply of deliverable traveller sites, the inspector considered the “significant” issue of granting temporary permission.
“However, this would not materially alter the balance of considerations, as the harm found to the character and appearance of the countryside would remain substantial and the overall benefits, in not providing a permanent settled base, would be less,” he said.
“Therefore, permission on a temporary basis would not be appropriate and, for the reasons given, I conclude that the appeal should be dismissed.”
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