A TRAVELLING family is hoping to gain temporary permission to continue living in the Green Belt near Chester.
The appeal has been launched by Anne Whitehouse who lives on part of a triangular area of land bounded by the A5117 and the A56 on Chester Road in Dunham Hill.Š
Planning permission was granted in 2005 for the construction of stables, a driveway and hardstanding, according to a report.
The stables have not been built and residential caravans now occupy the plot.Š
In 2007, an enforcement notice was issued against a change of use of the land from stables and agriculture to stables, agriculture and caravans suitable for residential use.Š
The notice led to an appeal which was dismissed.
An inspector upheld the notice.Š
Earlier this year, Mrs Whitehouse put forward a retrospective planning application to retain the caravan site for a temporary period to allow Chester City Council or the new Cheshire West and Chester Council to identify suitable alternative accommodation.Š
Planning officers pointed out the previous inspector had decided the site caused a harmful loss of openness in the Green Belt and encroached into the countryside in a vulnerable location.Š
The inspector did not feel Mrs Whitehouse's circumstances raised special health, education or employment needs which required the family to stay on that particular site.Š
Recommending that permission should not be granted, planning officers suggested the educational needs of the children at the site did not outweigh the harm to the Green Belt.Š
They pointed out that although the loss of openness and the degree of encroachment by an amenity block may appear small, Green Belt policy was firmly applied to prevent cumulative damage to the countryside.Š
Mrs Whitehouse argued there were very special circumstances as three children relied on the site to enable them to attend school during term time which would be impossible if the family went back to living at the roadside.Š
The council felt, however, that Mrs Whitehouse had not justified the need to be on the land at Dunham Hill.
Whilst it recognised the family's education needs, it did not believe these outweighed the harm to the openness of the Green Belt.Š
Planning officers also argued the future need for pitches and sites in Chester district had already been met through existing planning permissions and no additional sites would be needed.
Barrow City Cllr Eleanor Johnson (Con) and a nearby resident both said the application appeared no different to that which had failed appeal and argued there no special circumstances had been given for locating the site in the Green Belt.Š
They believed Mrs Whitehouse had no local connection and that Chester district had more than its allocation of travellers pitch es.Š
The city council agreed under delegated powers that the application should be refused leading Mrs Whitehouse to turn to Communities and Local Government Secretary Hazel Blears who has appointed an inspector to decide the issue at a one day hearing.Š
For Mrs Whitehouse, Northwich based Heine Planning has told the appeal they believe that planning officers failed to follow guidelines, including a person's circumstances, in recommending refusal.Š
The agents also argue the city council has failed to plan and provide for gypsy travellers and this weighs strongly in favour of Mrs Whitehouse's application.Š
The agents insist that any harm to the Green Belt is lessened by the fact the site is small and is well screened with little visibility from any public space.Š
They point out there is permission for a much larger permanent stable building on the land and argue the site is not prejudicial to the Green Belt.Š
In support of the application, the agents argue the family has strong local connections with the area and believe that consideration should be given to the length of time the family has been homeless and living on the road waiting for provision for Gypsy traveller families.Š
The educational needs of their children should also be taken into account.
“The council make the bizarre and quite absurd claim that the education needs of the children living on this site do not outweigh the harm to the openness of the Green Belt,” say the agents.Š
“It is difficult to believe that anyone could believe the educational needs of Gypsy travellers children count for so little.Š
They point out the amenity block which has been built is about one tenth of the floorspace of the approved stables and almost half the height.Š
“The very reason why the education of Gypsy traveller children is so appalling is because the families are being constantly moved on from one unauthorised site to another and are never settled in one place,'' say the agents.Š
Mrs Whitehouse, they have told the appeal, would accept a temporary permission to allow the local authority to identify suitable alternative accommodation.Š
The arguments are to be considered by an inspector at the hearing to be held on November 4 at 10am at the Crown Plaza Hotel in Chester.