Gipsy couple lose battle to stay in Wheathampstead stables

PUBLISHED: 16:00 14 October 2009 | UPDATED: 14:33 06 May 2010

A COUPLE with nine children who claim they are Romany gipsies have lost their latest appeal to stay on land they have illegally occupied for more than five years. Bob Smith and his wife Carol have fought off previous attempts to remove them from the land

A COUPLE with nine children who claim they are Romany gipsies have lost their latest appeal to stay on land they have illegally occupied for more than five years.

Bob Smith and his wife Carol have fought off previous attempts to remove them from the land at Riverbank Stables in Lower Luton Road, Wheathampstead.

But it looks as though they may have come to the end of the line after a planning inspector's decision to dismiss their latest appeal.

Riverbank Stables are in the ward of Cllr Judy Shardlow, who said: "This is the second time the family, who own two properties in Luton, have lodged an appeal to stay on the site.

"The inspector has agreed with us that this cannot happen, that it would cause significant harm to the Green Belt and that they must leave.

"I have already spoken to the council's enforcement team about this and they will be taking the legal steps necessary to ensure that the family comply with the council's position."

The row dates back to the beginning of 2006, when St Albans District Council (SADC) was informed the stables were being lived in.

New owner Mr Smith advised officers that he was a retired travelling showman and that he intended to live on the site and operate the stables.

He claimed he and his wife and children were travellers and asked the council to give consideration to their gipsy status.

But the council's enforcement officers discovered the Smiths already owned two houses in Luton.

Mr Smith last applied for retrospective planning permission in May 2009 for change of use for one family to use the site as a residential gipsy site - made up of one mobile home, a touring caravan and an ancillary building in addition to the existing stables.

But the plan was refused in December 2008 on the grounds that the site was Green Belt land.

A previous appeal by the Smiths was also dismissed by a planning inspector in December 2008 and they were ordered to leave the land by August 2009.

On that occasion the previous planning inspector Dennis Bradley accepted the Smiths were gipsies but did not accept the argument that they needed to stay on the site so as not to disrupt their children's education.

He pointed out that they had previously attended schools near their previous home in Luton only for their education to be disrupted by their move to the Riverbank site.

The Smiths' latest grounds for appeal concerned the fact that the family needed to be on the site to run their small livery and horse breeding business.

But planning inspector Clive Hughes said there was CCTV on the site and that none of the claims made by the Smiths outweighed the material consideration that this would be an inappropriate use of Green Belt land.

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