Monday, 23 November 2020

Victory for gypsy couple in dispute over mobile home

A GYPSY couple has been granted temporary planning permission to live in a mobile home at North End.

A GYPSY couple has been granted temporary planning permission to live in a mobile home at North End.

Jamie and Olivia Curtis will be able to live in Platts Lane for three years following the approval of South Oxfordshire District Council’s planning committee.

Permission was granted despite the couple’s application being contrary to planning policy, doubts about their gypsy status and objections from North End residents and Watlington Parish Council.

District councillor Rodger Bell said the committee had no option but to grant temporary planning permission as there was a shortfall in sites for gypsies and travellers in the district.

Sue Spencer, planning officer for the district council, said: “Officers remain of the opinion that ultimately this site should cease to be used for the stationing of a mobile home. However, the council has to have regard to the applicants’ status as a gypsy family.

“There is a shortfall in the provision of sites for gypsies and travellers across the district and in these circumstances the council is encouraged to consider very carefully sites owned by gypsies and travellers.

“Although not a site that officers would consider appropriate as a permanent site, we consider that a temporary planning permission granted until such time that we have allocated sites with the appropriate number of pitches would be reasonable.”

The site has had two mobile homes over the last 40 years, although one has been removed and the other should have been after the last occupant moved out in 2008.

Speaking at the committee meeting, Watlington parish councillor Robert Barber said the community had “extremely strong concerns”.

He said: “I firmly believe this is an occasion where the overwhelming weight of policy and local opposition should be heeded and an application relying on a tenuous supposition is rejected.”

North End resident David Macrae said the district council’s failure to remove the second mobile home had caused the problem.

He said: “The planning officer has made it quite clear that mobile homes should not exist on the site because it is contrary to policy and over the last four years enforcement action should have been pursued to remove the existing home, which is unlawful.”

Ronald Perrin, the Curtis’ agent, said the application did not “change anything on the ground” and suggested re-occupation was likely to improve the appearance of the existing site.

He said: “Although the site is within the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, it is a small site, well-screened and located within the context of the existing settlement. In short, it is not a prominent site and its impact is limited.

“The applicants are pleasant and responsible people who work for their living and are expecting twins. This is a case where there is a clear need in circumstances where there is an acknowledged lack of provision.”

Mr Perrin admitted the couple hoped the temporary permission would be extended in three years’ time and suggested neighbours may have “grown to like them” by then.

Councillor John Cotton said approving the application would amount to “kicking a problem down the track for another three years”.

Councillor Felix Bloomfield said: “Temporary permission, I think, is the right way forward and I believe that in three years’ time, as the agent says, we’ll probably be back here. Until we provide more permanent sites across the district, I am afraid this is the only way forward.”

Councillors voted to grant planning permission by nine votes to four.

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