A PLANNING inspector has lambasted South Gloucestershire council for 30 years of failure to provide sites for travellers and gypsies.
The inspector said the council knew it needed 61 new pitches in the district, but had failed to provide them, as he overturned the council’s decision to block a family caravan site in Frampton Cotterell becoming a general site for travellers and gypsies.
Allowing the appeal, inspector Matthew Jones said: “In the absence of immediately available or suitable alternative accommodation, dismissal of this appeal would amount to a breach of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights in relation to respect for private and family life.”
In 2017 the council gave permission for the Hegarty family to create pitches for five touring caravans and five mobile homes on land just off Bristol Road, just north of the Perrinpit Road junction.
Although it was in the green belt, special permission was granted because a member of the family was in chronic ill-health, and for child welfare – subject to a condition the site could only be used by five named members of the family and their children.
The inspector said the Hegarty family left in 2019, and the site is currently occupied by three O’Driscoll families, including 12 children enrolled in local schools.
In 2021 the landowner applied to revoke the previous planning conditions, to make the land a permanent Gypsy and Traveller caravan site.
People living and farming nearby had objected, and called for the site to be returned to Green Belt, and in June 2021 South Gloucestershire rejected the application, leading to the appeal.
Mr Jones said: “Policy failure has clearly been a persistent issue in South Gloucestershire, I am led to believe over a long period, approaching three decades.”
He said earlier failures had led the government to direct the council to formally allocate enough sites by 2011, but this had “not come to fruition”.
The plot is in the Green Belt, and the inspector agreed it would normally be “inappropriate”.
But he said other considerations, including lack of alternative sites, and effect on the children, far outweighed this and amount to “special circumstances”.
The inspector said he understood traveller site allocations are now intended to be included in the next South Gloucestershire Local Plan.
A council spokesperson said it accepted the outcome of the inquiry, and wanted to move away from a situation where “too many sites like this have received consent following appeal”.
The spokesperson said: “The only way to do this, and to reduce the number of ad hoc temporary camps, is to work through the Local Plan process to ensure there is appropriate provision for gypsies and travellers who are locally based or move through the area.
“We are currently assessing the future level of need in South Gloucestershire and are looking to identify suitable land to deliver new pitches through our new Local Plan, which will be subject to further public consultation in the Autumn.”
More details about the council’s new Local Plan can be found online at beta.southglos.gov.uk/new-local-plan.