Gypsies must wait on High Court verdictBy Becky Barnes
October 29, 2012
Two Gypsies refused permission for a Traveller site after destroying 57 trees and protected species’ habitats must wait to hear the outcome of a High Court challenge.
Dave Reed and Nelson Keeling ‘threatened badger and bat populations’ when they felled trees and put up makeshift homes for their families in woodland between Merrymead and Pine Acres, in Birch Lane, Ascot in 2009, the judge heard.
A Government planning inspector, who upheld Bracknell Forest Council’s decision to refuse the plans, found the circumstances of the families and the need for additional Gypsy and Traveller sites did not outweigh the ‘substantial harm’ caused by the development.
The Travellers, who brought the land and cleared part of it, were refused permission for four caravans, two portable amenity buildings and stables, by the council in May 2010, which the inspector upheld in June 2011.
Now they have turned to the High Court to ask for another chance at securing planning permission to stay on the site by ordering the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to have their case reconsidered.
But on Thursday, October 18 Deputy Judge Jarman reserved judgment to give his decision in writing later.
Mr Reed and Mr Keeling argued the inspector did not deal with key issues of the site’s Tree Preservation Order (TPO) and the unmet need for Gypsy sites properly, and acted ‘unreasonably’ in refusing permission.
They claimed he was wrong about a breach of the TPO, as the council had agreed planting replacement trees would make up for the felling.
The Travellers said he was wrong not to find there was a substantial need for additional sites in the area, which justified a grant of planning permission, at least temporarily.
Rejecting the appeal, the inspector ruled the ‘amenity blocks’ were being used as homes, fitted with bathrooms, kitchens, sleeping and living accommodation.
He found timber-clad stables on the site were not being used to keep horses but were ancillary accommodation with kitchens and gyms, tack rooms and food preparation areas for the gypsies’ lurcher dogs.
He found they had felled 46 mature Scots pine trees and 11 silver birch, which was likely to have affected badgers and protected bats which could have been roosting.
At the High Court hearing, Government lawyers said the inspector was entitled to approach his decision the way he did, and that he had
acted ‘reasonably’ and ‘proportionately’.