CASEBOOK: Appeal cases - Gypsies and travellers - Green belt site rejected pending local plan review

The retention of a Gypsy site in the Essex green belt has been rejected on the grounds that the personal circumstances of the family and lack of authorised sites did not outweigh the harm to the openness of the area.

The site was mostly laid to hardstanding and had three double-axle caravans positioned upon it. The appellant claimed that it provided his family with a permanent home and the security of a winter base while travelling, trading horses and fruit picking. He argued that there was a substantial shortfall of Gypsy sites in the county and that a refusal to grant permission would leave him open to eviction, which would amount to a violation of his human rights.

The inspector concluded that it would be unreasonable to grant permissions for Gypsy sites on an ad hoc basis simply to satisfy a numerical shortage of sites which varied from year to year. The correct approach was to assess the need and identify sites through an impending local plan review, he decided. While accepting that the children's educational and health needs were material considerations, he found that they had yet to start school and their medical state was not so serious or compelling as to justify retaining the caravans on the site.

In assessing his inspector's conclusions, the deputy prime minister balanced the harm to the green belt and the very special circumstances advanced by the appellant. He decided that the harmful effects were substantial and gave only limited weight to the lack of alternative sites, given the local plan review. The protection of the green belt was a matter of public importance which justified interfering with the human rights of the appellant and his family, he ruled.

DCS No: 54286644; Inspector: Tony Pickering; Inquiry.

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