Gypsy challenges right to park on green belt land
An Irish Gypsy has won the right to challenge a council’s decision to refuse her planning permission in what could be a test case.
Lord Justice Elias decided earlier this month Kathleen O’Connor had an ‘arguable point’ that a planning inspector had failed to give sufficient weight to the unmet need for Gypsy and Traveller sites in her area.
A planning inspector in February last year upheld Bath & North East Somerset Council’s decision not to allow her permission to turn an area of green belt land between Bath and Bristol into a Gypsy and Traveller caravan site.
Although the inspector recognised there was ‘a general need at the present time for Gypsy and Traveller sites in the council’s area’, the eventual decision was that ‘other material considerations in favour of the proposal do not clearly outweigh the harm to the green belt’.
Ms O’Connor took her case to the High Court earlier this year where Deputy Judge John Howells dismissed it.
Lord Justice Elias has now decided to allow an appeal focusing on the provision made for Gypsies and Travellers by local councils.
Ms O’Connor owns a plot next to the green belt land she wants planning permission for, which is about 300 metres south east of the village of Queen Charlton. She uses the land she owns for grazing horses.
At the time of the inspector’s decision in February 2011, she lived on the green belt land with her daughter Eileen ‘Patsy’ O’Connor, her three adult sons William O’Connor, James O’Connor and Thomas O’Connor, Thomas’ wife Mona Lisa O’Connor, and James’ partner Noreen ‘Nikita’ O’Driscoll. Her nephew Mark O’Connor, his wife Emily O’Connor and their three children had also lived on the site.
She applied for planning permission to change the use of the land to a private Gypsy and Traveller caravan site, including the stationing of two single unit static caravans and three touring caravans.
Chris Whitwell, director of the charity Friends Families and Travellers, said: ‘Unless local authorities face up to their responsibilities for identifying and providing sites to meet the shortfall, Gypsies and Travellers will seek to make their own provision where they can and will have a much stronger chance of winning an appeal. I think it is a wake-up call to local authorities to take their responsibilities seriously.’
He said there were up to about 25,000 people who do not have access to a legal pitch in the UK – which equates to a need for between 5,000 to legal 6,000 pitches – which costs £18 million of public money a year. The charity said the majority of councils in the UK still do not provide enough spaces.