‘No vacant land for gypsies to stay’

Planning round-up
Planning round-up

As two planning applications for projects on private land by two separate gypsy families were refused, Horsham District Council confirmed that there is no designated vacant land for gypsies and travellers to settle.

At Horsham District Council’s (HDC) development control committee meeting on July 15, two gypsy families had submitted applications to set up residency in the district.

One plan by Mr and Mrs Ray was to site three mobile homes in Billingshurst, and a separate plan by Sarah Barnes was to remove a condition that allows her family to inhabit land in Pulborough for a limited time.

Both were recommended for approval by the planning officer and both refused by HDC.

Councillors disputed why Mr and Mrs Ray needed two associated amenity blocks to accompany the three mobile homes, but a planning officer said the family are following gypsy handbook guidelines.

The proposed site is located at The Barn, West Chiltington Lane, Billingshurst.

Applicant Rachel Ray made a plea to the council: “One of my daughters is about to get married and lives in a caravan in Cranleigh and wants to be closer to her family - my other daughter is engaged to be married and wishes to stay close to us. My mother needs to be looked after and my father has had a heart attack,” she said.

Kate Rowbotom (Con, Billingshurst and Shipley) referred to the application as a ‘complete over the top development’.

She said: “If this is granted there will be 23 pitches within a small distance of a small hamlet. It’s clearly unsustainable and in the wrong location.”

Claire Vickers (Con, Southwater) said: “I have sympathy with the concerns of the local members. However, we do have a shortfall of Horsham pitches.”

There are currently three sites in the Horsham district. West Sussex County Council manages Adversane and Cousins Copse and HDC manages Small Dole. All of these sites are full, according to HDC.

A spokesperson for HDC told the County Times: “There is currently no vacant land within the district where gypsies and travellers can stay lawfully.”

Both councils are working on the development and management of a Transit site at Westhampnett (near Chichester) to provide nine temporary pitches.

Brian Donnelly (Con, Pulborough and Coldwaltham) said the council has not designated any new sites for travellers in the last five years.

He said: “How many sites have we identified in the last five years? We have not identified one and I find this totally disgraceful.

“So a small majority is taking advantage. I would like to see this application refused.”

The second application is located at Parsons Field Stables. Pickhurst Lane, Pulborough and looks to change the use of land to a caravan site and remove the time limit.

Pulborough Parish Councillor Andy Tilbrook said the parish ‘strongly object’ to the plan due to the site being susceptible to surface water.

“It’s not suitable for any caravans. There’s not a cat’s chance in hell that this surface water can be changed,” he said.

The applicant went to the committee in November 2013 and was granted an extension to allow her daughter to attend the local school, but Mr Donnelly said that there is no proof the child has been attending the local school, and if she has not then there has been a ‘great injustice to the system’.

HDC said: “The Horsham District Planning Framework does identify a supply of gypsy and traveller sites to be delivered and meet the identified need by 2017.

“In addition, the plan identifies that the council will be preparing a sites allocation to identify suitable sites after 2017 and has a criteria based policy for assessing planning applications on non-allocated sites.”