St Albans traveller wins planning appeal

A TRAVELLER has won a planning appeal to get temporary permission for three pitches and stabling for horses alongside the property he owns.

Michael Connors took the district council to a public inquiry over its refusal to grant planning permission for the pitches at Ardens Rise in House Lane, St Albans.

He has also won a partial award of costs from the district council even though the planning inspector accepted that part of the problem with late evidence to the inquiry was due to the illiteracy of members of the family of the applicant who gave evidence.

Mr Connors has occupied the Green Belt site since 1996 and has since had temporary permission for three caravans on the site. When the most recent permission expired and he applied to St Albans council to continue with the use, a condition was attached that its use should cease on or before February last year so that the council could regain control over a Green Belt site.

Mr Connors appealed against the imposition of that condition and the inquiry was held over various dates last year, finally concluding on December 2.

As well as the planning team, the inspector also heard from three councillors and the chairman of the Jersey Farm Residents Association who argued on several levels – that to allow the appeal would reward a breach of planning control, would prejudice the council’s challenge to the regional gipsy pitch allocation figures and encourages further breaches of control.

But the inspector took the view that as the district council had not met its required number of pitches, there was an unmet need for gipsy and traveller accommodation which could, unless the council tolerated the unlawful use of the appeal site, result in Mr Connors and his family being homeless.

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He did not accept that substantial harm was being done to the Green Belt by allowing a five-year temporary permission and said he attached some weight to the past use of the site by members of an Irish traveller family.

St Albans planning portfolio holder, Cllr Chris Brazier, said he was disappointed at the decision. He went on: “If you give people temporary planning permission they can always try to extend it and that was my concern with the application.”

He said that planning officers had originally recommended a three-year temporary permission but the committee which had taken the decision decided to uphold the council’s assertion that it already provides more traveller pitches in the district than other parts of Herts.

“There is over provision in the district and that is our view. Until there is an equal share across the county we don’t see why St Albans should provide most of the pitches in Hertfordshire.”

Cllr Brazier added: “I am always disappointed when an inspector awards costs to one side or the other but it is part of his job to listen to both sides and make a decision.”