THE long running problem surrounding the provision of pitches for Gypsies and Travellers in Chester district has been decided until the middle of the next decade.
The city's planning board was told it was a difficult to envisage a better Green Belt site than land in Thornton Le Moors.
Permission was recommended for an application to vary a condition on the use of the land at the junction of the A5117 Shotwick to Frodsham Road and Grass Road near Elton village.
Applicant Mr T Berry told Chester City Council he was seeking an increase in the number of caravans from two to 10.
In April this year an increase to 13 was rejected.
Mr Berry had approval on appeal to use the triangular plot as a Gypsy caravan site for one family with two caravans in 2005.
The land, within 1.5 km of Elton, originally had permission for domestic stables in 1991.
Objections were raised by Elton Parish Council which argued that access to the site will be a major problem and there were no special circumstances to allow the development in the Green Belt.
Parish councillors insisted there had been no substantial change in the circumstances since the previous application was rejected and there were no special circumstances to justify an additional eight caravans.
The County Engineer accepted the site has good visibility in both directions and did not object providing the access was widened.
Individual objectors told the city council the site is not adequate to hold any more caravans and they are concerned about highway safety and the effect on property values.
They fear the area will become one large site and believe that pitches are available elsewhere.
“There are 10 locations for travellers within two miles of Elton,” said one occupier.
“We feel if this proposal for the increase is approved, this will open the floodgates for more travellers to arrive.
“At this present moment, Elton is flooded with them.”
Claims were also made that travellers “are racing up and down the streets at incredible speeds.”
In a report, planning officers say an assessment has identified the need for an additional four to nine pitches for Gypsies and travellers in Chester district by 2011 with an additional five pitches to be provided by 2016.
They point out that along with the two caravans already granted permanent permission on the site, approval has also been given by the Planning Inspectorate for a site at Prevan Place in Elton with seven caravans for a temporary period until 2010.
Two planning appeals are pending for sites at Dunham-on-the-Hill for four caravans and Wimbolds Trafford for two vans.
Allowing the increase requested by Mr Berry on a permanent basis “would mean that the need for gypsy sites in this district would definitely be met for a period up to 2016”, says the city council.
An inspector has previously pointed out that allowing only two caravans on the land “may be wasteful” and suggested it might be appropriate for a greater number, councillors heard.
“It has become more evident that this site is the most appropriate of the currently occupied sites despite its Green Belt location,” they were told.
“It would be difficult to envisage a situation where a proposed gypsy caravan site in the Green Belt has better credentials than this site.”
A substantial hedge along the boundary with the A5117 means it is unlikely the caravans would be seen.
Five caravans will be static and five will be mobile homes.
Recommending the application should be approved, planning officers commented: “It is considered that this is the most suitable site available to meet the identified need for sites in the district.”
Councillors agreed to vary the condition on a 9-0 vote with four abstentions after permission was moved by planning chairman Cllr Andrew Storrar (Con, Saughall).