Landmark victory in battle over gipsy caravans

A LANDMARK victory has been claimed by a parish council over a gipsy family which has plagued them for years. Colney Heath Parish Council was so angry when traveller Peter Robb won a planning appeal to allow him and his extended family to move their cara

A LANDMARK victory has been claimed by a parish council over a gipsy family which has plagued them for years.

Colney Heath Parish Council was so angry when traveller Peter Robb won a planning appeal to allow him and his extended family to move their caravans back on to Nuckies Farm in the village that they decided to seek a Judicial Review.

But although a High Court date had been set, the parish council has now heard from Ottaways, the solicitors acting on their behalf, that the Secretary of State has decided to quash the planning inspector's decision.

A delighted Cllr Chris Brazier, who sits on both the parish and St Albans District Council, said this week: "It is the first time I have ever heard of this happening. In any event it is very unusual and I was simply amazed when I heard.


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"The Secretary of State concedes that the inspector erred and has consented to pay all reasonable costs."

Mr Robb has proved to be a thorn in the side of both the parish and district councils since he moved on to Nuckies Farm in Coursers Road in 2000. Numerous enforcement notices were served on him by the district council and he had permission to live on the land rejected.

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He also served a 28-day jail sentence for defying a High Court injunction ordering him and his family to move off the site - and when they finally did leave, they parked on nearby Colney Heath Common.

One of the major causes of concern was that the site was in the Green Belt and part of a flood plain. The parish council warned that the development would affect the natural flow of flood water and would, in turn, impact on houses further down river.

So the parish council was furious when a planning inspector decided last year to let Mr Robb and his family move back onto Nuckies Farm for a maximum of five years.

Planning inspector Clive Hughes ruled that the health needs of the family and the absence of any pitches in the area on which they could live outweighed the damage to the Green Belt and the advice in planning guidelines that caravans should not be put on the land because of the flood risk.

The decision to seek a Judicial Review into the decision was fully supported in the village and other parish councils in the district pledged financial support should it prove necessary.

But as the action did not have to reach the High Court, it only cost £13,000 - money which the council believes is well spent.

Cllr Brazier heard from Ottaways last week that the Secretary of State had considered the arguments and evidence submitted by the parish council and had conceded that the inspector had erred in failing to provide an adequately-reasoned decision.

Mr Robb will now be asked to sign a Consent Order which will be sealed by the court and the decision quashed. Should he refuse to do so, the action can proceed provided reasonable attempts have been made to notify him.

Cllr Brazier said he was particularly delighted that Ottaways had praised the parish council because their initial instinct had proved right and their persistence and conviction vindicated.

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