Ministerial responses to two recent recovered appeals involving gypsy sites at Green Belt locations have highlighted that decisions are taken on a case-by-case basis.
The first case involved an appeal against refusal of change of use of Green Belt land at Blackmore in Essex which was originally opposed by Brentwood Borough Council. The proposal, for six residential gypsy pitches with hard standing, amenity areas, day rooms and stabling was for a site in Communities Secretary Eric Pickles’ parliamentary constituency.
He took no personal involvement in the determination of the appeal which was decided by another Department for Communities and Local Government minister.
In this case the planning inspector who heard the appeal recommended the appeal should be allowed. The minister disagreed. The decision letter made it clear that although the inspector argued there were special circumstances justifying permission (personal needs and unmet site provision) the minister was not persuaded.
The minister wrote that he was “not satisfied that those matters, either individually or cumulatively, outweigh the harm he has identified and he concludes that very special circumstances to justify this development in the Green Belt do not exist”.
In the second case Communities Secretary Eric Pickles agreed with the recommendation of the inspector who heard the appeal by a gypsy family for change of use to allow the siting of mobile homes, touring caravans and utility day rooms on Green Belt land in Oxfordshire originally refused by Cherwell District Council.
In that case the minister agreed there were “very special circumstances” which justified what was “inappropriate development” which harmed the openness of the Green Belt.
The special circumstances included: the need for the family group to have settled accommodation at one location and the unmet need for sites and failure of the development plan to meet identified need for gypsy and traveller sites.
13 October 2011