The Environment Agency identified the site as being within flood zone 3a. It was about 2km from a river and flood risk in the area was dominated by the tides. The inspector noted Circular 01/2006's advice that Gypsy sites should not be located in areas at high risk of flooding, given the inherent instability of caravans, while PPS25 defines caravans intended for permanent residential occupation as a highly vulnerable use that should not be permitted in zone 3a.
The appellants explained that the site was intended to be their home base but that they would often be away travelling. They considered that the nature of the use was more akin to holiday or short-let caravans and should be considered in the more vulnerable category of PPS25 where sequential and exception tests could be applied.
Given the seasonal nature of the appellants' work, which involved landscaping and horse fairs, the inspector inferred that the site was more likely to be fully occupied in winter than a holiday site. This heightened the risk from more severe weather and the possibility of storm surges on the tidal river, she reasoned.
She also predicted that one or more of the five households might wish to spend longer periods on-site due to medical conditions, approaching retirement and the wish to provide a stable education for children. The use should be considered permanent and thus highly vulnerable in terms of PPS25, she concluded.
The families had practised removing the caravans from the site and could disconnect electricity and gas, hitch up to motor vehicles and leave in less than five minutes. The inspector acknowledged that they were ready to face flood risk with courage and found it difficult to understand why this should deny them the stability of a permanent base.
She carefully considered whether a temporary permission would be an option, since it did not appear that the appellants' health was likely to deteriorate to the point that they were resident all the time within the period. She decided, however, that it would not be appropriate given the high probability of flooding.
DCS Number 100-067-540
Inspector Daphne Mair; Hearing