Travellers seek retrospective approval for more caravans at Great Billington site

Planning
Planning

Changes could be made to the number of caravans which can occupy a gipsy and travellers’ site at Great Billington.

The adjustments to a previous planning permission at plot 10, site C at The Stables in Great Billington would be retrospective, if approved by Central Bedfordshire planners tomorrow (Wednesday, Oct 10).

Under the proposed alterations a maximum of 11 caravans would be allowed and not more than seven should be mobile homes, according to a report to councillors.

The Stables is an establish travellers’ site north of Stanbridge Road in Stanbridge parish, close to the boundary with Billington, says the report.

Planning permission was granted in 2013 for the change of use of the land at site C to have nine caravans on three plots, one of which was the application site.

The approved plans show two static caravans on each of the three plots, but did not restrict locations of the three mobile caravans, adds the report.

“But it is assumed that each plot would be permitted to station one touring caravan under the existing permission,” it says.

“This application is a retrospective application to vary conditions three and four to allow the stationing of an additional five static caravans and to make provision for up to four mobile caravans to be provided on the plot.

“The extra caravans would be located on the approved plot and partly on an area designated for woodland in the original permission.”

The woodland area measures nearly a quarter of an acre.

The application would still retain the names of the original occupiers of the plot, the report explains.

“It would then add members of their family to allow them to lawfully live on the plot together.”

Although the report says “the application represents inappropriate development within the Green Belt”, council planning officers say “it would not conflict with any of the purposes of including land within the Green Belt”.

“Having regard to the personal circumstances of the applicants, it is considered that very special circumstances exist that outweigh the harm that would be caused to the Green Belt.”

It says that “significant weight is given to the best interests of the child and the lack of alternative sites within the area”.

“Weight is also given to the benefits of providing an extra five pitches and strengthening the council’s buffer of its five-year housing supply,” adds the report.

“It is considered that the proposal would not harm the character and appearance of the area, the amenity of neighbouring occupiers or the highway network.”

Stanbridge Parish Council objects to the plans because the site is in the green belt and it would be inappropriate development there.

The council says there is already more than 60 per cent of the entire gipsy and traveller population for Central Bedfordshire in the south of the area. The scheme would “further increase the numbers in an already oversubscribed area”.

The council adds: “This road alone has several sites. The Stables A, B and C consists of many plots, with two further sites on the opposite side of the road.

“Although there is no current Development Plan or Local Plan, it must be clear that under any sensible definition the gipsy and traveller population in the Billington area cannot be seen otherwise than dominating the settled community.

“The police are concerned about the aggressive activities of some (not all) of the gipsy and traveller population in the area. We could state that currently certain individuals seem to behave above the law on other pitch sites within the three Stables sites.

“This sets a bad example to children on site. While this is not directly linked to planning, it will have an impact on more children coming on to the site and potentially place them in a dangerous situation.

“With sub-letting a common occurrence on other sites in the area, we do not feel there is unmet need as there are spaces available on other sites.

“A lack of enforcement in the area gives rise to concerns about the safety and suitability of this site and further expansion. We would strongly object to the numbers on this site being increased.”