PUBLISHED: 11:02 26 November 2009 | UPDATED: 14:41 06 May 2010
SIR – Mr Houlahan (Herts Advertiser letters, Gipsy Agenda?, November 12) has made an interesting survey of recent developments along the Lea Valley from Wheathampstead to East Hyde, all of which have added to the suburbanisation of the valley. Few of thes
SIR - Mr Houlahan (Herts Advertiser letters, Gipsy Agenda?, November 12) has made an interesting survey of recent developments along the Lea Valley from Wheathampstead to East Hyde, all of which have added to the suburbanisation of the valley.
Few of these new houses have contributed to our need for affordable homes and some are part of the ongoing gentrification of farms and barns.
He could have cited more barn conversions and gated properties, which used to be farms, along the lanes above the Lea Valley.
So Mr Houlahan has highlighted the discrimination which routinely characterises reports of planning applications by gipsies - a people recognised by the Race Relations Act.
What is also noteworthy is that Mr and Mrs Smith are merely seeking to live in a caravan alongside Riverbank Stables which they run.
Stables are an inherent part of the Hertfordshire rural economy and surely fit Green Belt criteria.
St Albans District Council is also continuing to block applications by other local gipsy families. Ned Stanley (August 28) at Tullochside Farm, Redbourn, breeds horses and has been refused planning permission for a barn.
Yet barns are also a normal part of rural Green Belt scenery. Then there is Ned Connors in Bricket Wood (July 23) who is also trying to get planning permission for siting caravan pitches within an exisiting stableyard. And Peter Robb (September 17) who is fighting a long battle to remain on his land at Nuckies Farm, Colney Heath. Since houses have been built on the flood plains of other local rivers, as Mr Houlahan points out, it looks all too probable that the Robb family are facing discrimination as gipsies.
As far as I know all these families are trying to live on land they own and are trying to maintain a rural life.
When in 1994 councils ceased to have a duty to provide sites, they were supposed to help gipsies establish private sites.
The cases you report in your columns show how difficult that is.
Member of Bucks & West Herts Gypsy Advocacy
SIR - I thank Mr Houlahan for a view which balances the story 'Gipsy family loses new appeal over stables site' (Herts Advertiser, November 12).
It is all too easy to react to either side of the story. One must, in order to be properly informed, commit to some research which is easily available.
The planning appeal decision is available open source at the St Albans planning website, search for Riverbank Stables, Wheathampstead.
Regarding the unnecessary inferred point, the application was made using Special Gipsy status.
This was a point of appeal. Therefore there can be no inferred adverse comment on this point which was made by the applicant. In fact, this point and the needs of the family and children attracted great weight in favour of the applicant.
Mr Houlahan lists several other applications which I found quickly - not passed but refused. The Slype - refused; Marquis Lane - refused and the refusal of an extension behind the Bull PH.
I suspect the other plots of land may have already been built up and enhanced on or were in character to the proposal which I could not find on search.
Mr Houlahan, you should have done your research first. Mr Smith's application was uncovered to have many mistruths. The application and appeal panel's decision is there for all to see, read the planning application in depth.
As far as I see, this is not a story based on race or religion but one based on fair application of the law. The same rules have been applied to Mr Smith as was applied the Marquis Lane applicant and the applicant at The Slype.
I applaud the St Albans District Council planning committee for their fairness in this matter. I understand the appeal has now been heard by the Secretary of State for environment.
Mr Smith was fully legally represented by a gipsy legal expert, Mr Cox from Bristol, and it must be expected that he received the best advice to conduct his case.
The comments of Mr Houlahan are ill researched and bear no relevence to this issue.
The decision of the Planning Inspector must now be respected and Mr Smith should go about his business without living on the land in breach of planning refusal after several appeals.
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