Traveller site near Heath and Reach ‘like a village’

Construction at the site at Mile Tree Road
Construction at the site at Mile Tree Road

Construction work has begun at a traveller site in LBO land that Central Beds Council fought tooth and nail to block.

The encampment at Mile Tree Road near Heath and Reach was granted planning permission on appeal by the Planning Inspectorate in December 2016 after it was originally refused by Central Bedfordshire Council.

The site was granted permission for five caravans but with the addition of a large gateway entrance, fencing and new footpaths.

“It looks like they’re building a new village”, said one concerned resident. “There’s supposed to be five pitches but it looks like something huge is being built.

“But it’s a done deal now, there’s no point complaining.”

Central Beds Council fought to block the development which it said would set “a dangerous precedent”.

When the owner of the land, a traveller called Michael Kieley, first applied for retrospective planning permission for six pitches and hardstandings it was rejected.

After an abortive first enquiry and a hearing at the High Court, a second public inquiry ruled in the travellers’ favour due to their personal circumstances which the inspector said outweighed the need to preserve the green belt.

The council spent £10,000 on legal costs, £100,000 on security to prevent occupation of the land, plus a further £10,000 re-instating the site.

In his published verdict, Government Inspector Simon Hand said the site was now better screened and less development was proposed (five pitches instead of six) “therefore the impact on the countryside and the openness of the green belt is reduced”.

He added: “The personal circumstances of the proposed occupiers of the site are in my view significant.

“The alternative is to remain on the road. Several of the adults have poor health, and they would benefit from a settled site, but most important is the needs of the 13 children for a stable base.”