St Albans gipsy site expansion is rejected - but could win approval at appeal

Will this scheme win approval at appeal?

Will this scheme win approval at appeal? - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

A bid to expand a gipsy site on Green Belt land has been unanimously rejected by a St Albans planning committee - despite a warning that the application would go to appeal and the council would lose and have to pay costs.

Johnny Connors had applied for the partial change of use of land in Chiswell Green Lane, St Albans, for the stationing of caravans, redesign of the existing caravan site and three mobile home pitches.

It is the latest planning application relating to extending the site which one councillor said she had been to look at and found was being used for a paving company business behind gates.

A number of adjoining residents had objected to the scheme on grounds ranging from inappropriate development in the Green Belt to the impact of commercial traffic and anti-social behaviour.

Their concerns were echoed by St Albans MP Anne Main who said it degraded the rural and open appearance of the Green Belt and St Stephen parish council which lodged ‘strong objections’ to the application for similar reasons to the residents.

But in support of the application which went to Monday’s meeting of St Albans planning referrals committee, Matthew Green of planning consultants Green Planning Studio, warned that there were ‘serious errors’ in the planning officer’s report. “This will be granted planning permission on appeal and you are likely to have to pay costs. It is not an accurate report and you are being misled by your officers,” he said.

Giving the opposing view Cllr Brian Gibbard, who represents St Stephen ward on the council, stressed how many previous applications there had been and argued that there were no special circumstances to warrant breaching Green Belt development rules.

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He added that if the application was refused, local residents would expect action to be taken to reinstate the site ‘as a matter of urgency’.

Fellow local councillor Sue Featherstone spoke of the amount of local resentment there was over the Green Belt being marauded, the loss of trees and other issues around the site.

She said she went along fully with the officer’s report, having heard from residents about the problems the site caused them.

Moving rejection of the application from the chair, Cllr Teresa Heritage called for enforcement action to go ahead ‘in light of the blatant disregard of Green Belt rules.”