Colney Heath traveller wins latest fight to stay on site

LESS than 18 months after a traveller failed to overturn a High Court decision forcing him to move from a village site, he has been given another stay of execution.

Peter Robb, who lives at Nuckies Farm in Colney Heath, has won the backing of the Planning Inspectorate to remain for another four years on the Green Belt site which he has been occupying illegally.

In March 2010, Mr Robb asked for leave to appeal against a High Court ruling that he should leave the site which was turned down.

But the traveller and his family were allowed to make fresh representations to the Planning Inspectorate and earlier this month the inspector, Richard Clegg, ruled that Mr Robb could remain on the site for another four-year period.

At the end of that time, Mr Clegg said, all caravans and other structures on the site should be removed.

Colney Heath parish council has been at the heart of the dispute with Mr Robb over Nuckies Farm which is on the flood plain as well as in the Green Belt.

The saga began in 2000 when Mr Robb moved on to Nuckies Farm which resulted in numerous enforcement notices being served on him by the district council.

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He even served a 28-day prison sentence for defying an earlier High Court injunction ordering him off the site.

The parish council’s main cause for concern is that positioning mobile homes and caravans on the site could impact on houses further down the River Colne in periods of heavy rainfall.

Mr Clegg accepted that the occupation of Nuckies Farm by a family of travellers was an inappropriate development which harmed the openness of the Green Belt.

He agreed that using the land as a gipsy site, albeit for a temporary period, would have an effect on the character and appearance of the area but felt the impact could be reduced.

To overcome the risk of flooding further down the River Colne, he accepted a proposal that permeable screens would be fitted around the underside of the mobile homes which would allow floodwater to flow underneath.

Mr Clegg also maintained there was a clear need for additional gipsy and traveller accommodation in St Albans and that the health problems of Mr Robb and his wife Ann, as well as the fact that four members of their grandchildren attended school nearby, warranted his decision to allow the family to remain for a temporary four-year period.

Speaking on behalf of the parish council, Cllr Chris Brazier, explained: “We applied to have the site cleared after the High Court ruling but we were told we would have to wait for the ruling by an inspector.

“Now Mr Robb has been allowed to stay for four years which is disappointing for us but the inspector also ruled that the district council has the means to enforce issues such as the boundary fencing and the siting of the caravans.

“We are now going to contact the district council and ask them to enforce that.”

He went on: “We have won three High Court cases and yet Mr Robb is still able to appeal and keeps getting away with it. It beggars belief.”

Cllr Brazier also disputed the inspector’s contention about the need for additional traveller accommodation in the district, pointing out that St Albans had the highest number of pitches in Herts.