Caravan site to close after Gypsy owner loses appealBy Laura Herbert
October 29, 2012
A gypsy who opened up his land in Crowthorne as a caravan site for the homeless has lost a High Court battle to overturn a decision to close it.
Felix Cash asked a judge to quash a Government planning inspector’s dismissal of an earlier challenge to Wokingham Borough Council’s decision to refuse planning permission for – and issue enforcement notices against – his mobile home park at Pine Ridge, in Nine Mile Ride.
Mr Cash said he set up the park with 22 caravans to house vulnerable homeless people considered a low priority on the council’s housing list.
He argued some had been waiting more than seven years for a place to live until he opened the site.
He hoped to win a ruling forcing the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to have his case reconsidered.
On Monday, Deputy Judge Belinda Bucknall QC ruled his challenge was ‘unarguable’. She said: “The inspector dealt with the issues throughout in a fair and even-handed manner.”
The council deemed the park was a breach of planning control, and issued the enforcement notices demanding Mr Cash remove the caravans, as well as hardstanding, utilities and a fence at the site.
His appeal was refused by a Government planning inspector in April 2011. Challenging that decision, Mr Cash claimed the notices were not properly served on all residents, and the inspector was wrong to speculate those who did not give evidence at a public inquiry knew about the appeal.
He argued the inspector took a perverse or materially flawed approach to the question of whether there had been substantial prejudice caused to some of the residents, who Mr Cash claims are at risk of being deprived of their homes.
However, the judge said there was ‘ample evidence’ on which the inspector could conclude that no substantial prejudice had been suffered.
She said: “In my judgment, the submission that the inspector’s approach to this issue was flawed and unreasonable is unarguable.”
Mr Cash claims the inspector put too much emphasis on the possible harm from flood risk, and that little or no weight should have been given to it because he and the council agreed flood risk could be managed.
The judge ruled the inspector was entitled to reach the conclusion he had on flood risk.
Rejecting Mr Cash’s additional claims that the inspector adopted a flawed approach to granting temporary planning permission, the judge added: “His decision that the development did not have the necessary characteristic to be granted temporary planning permission was a matter for his planning judgment and is not open to review by the court.”