St Albans residents call for an end to travellers’ Green Belt expansion plans

Ardens Rise on House Lane

Ardens Rise on House Lane - Credit: Archant

Travellers’ visiting relatives should stay in local hotels rather than swallow up more Green Belt land with mobile homes and caravans, according to angry residents.

Strongly worded objections against a bid to expand travellers’ accommodation in Jersey Farm have flooded in to St Albans district council.

Planners Philip Brown Associates have lodged an application on behalf of Michael Connors to increase the number of pitches – permanently – at Ardens Rise, House Lane.

Back in 2011, Mr Connors won an appeal against the council’s rejection of his bid to allow the stationing of three caravans.

Mr Connors, described by a planning inspector as a “member of the Irish Traveller community” bought the holding in 1996 and had a site licence for two caravans transferred to him by the previous owner.

But the inspector said a permanent permission was not justified because of harm to the Green Belt.

He gave the go-ahead for the stationing of three caravans, just one of which could be static, and no more than three pitches.

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But that was for a limited period of five years, with all caravans or mobile homes to be removed by February 2016.

Mr Connors now wants six pitches, to base three more mobile homes.

His agent said that the traveller’s extended family had a “need for lawful accommodation.

“There are 12 children within the extended family group who are in need of a settled site for access to health care and some for schooling.”

The agent said, “The best interests of these children must be treated as a primary consideration.”

And with the council “delaying production of its Strategic Local Plan” land allocations for gypsies and travellers had effectively come to a standstill despite a substantial unmet need.

However the agent’s comments have angered locals, with one man asking: “If they are supposed to be travellers why do they need static mobile homes?”

And an objecting couple added: “The concept that six groups of family members wish to visit temporarily for a number of years is blatantly absurd. There is no logical reason why visiting relatives should not make use of local hotels.”

Other objections included: “Turning the site into effectively a gypsy site will devalue our homes” and “I feel that more mobile homes will give the estate a ‘no go’ reputation”.

One objector said: “I would be very interested to know if the occupants of these vehicles are registered to pay council tax – if not, I think I will take to living in my mobile home in my garden”.

Residents complained about a Green Belt location becoming a permanent gypsy site with one saying, “you are in effect creating a mini travellers’ site…surely it will set a precedent”.

The Jersey Farm Residents Association, representing over 900 households in the immediate area, has objected as has Sandridge parish council.

A decision has yet to be made.