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Hersham Planning Application Pleasant Place Travellers Site

Hersham Planning Application – Travellers Site on Pleasant Place

A number of local residents have been in touch asking if we had seen this planning application and whether we could do an assessment and post more details to raise awareness with the wider community.

The application relates to the traveller camp next to Burhill School on Pleasant Place and requests the following:

“Removal of Condition 1 (Temporary Time Limit) and Variation of Conditions 4 (Personal Permission), 5 (Caravans Limit) and 14 (Number of Pitches) of planning permission 2014/1519 (Use of Land as Private Caravan Site) to make permission permanent, increase the number of pitches and caravans and to amend list of site residents.”

The land, owned by the travellers, has been occupied since October 2005 and, after a series of refusals, enforcement notices and planning appeals, temporary permission for five years was granted in 2009.

5 years on from 2009 and a similar application for permanent use was made in 2014 and, despite a planning officer’s recommendation to permit the application, Councillors said the concerns of residents and the use of the greenbelt were too great to allow it permanently and it was turned down in favour of a 5 year extension of their temporary permission.

This is obviously now about to expire and it appears their is an additional attempt at applying for permanent use of the site alongside an increase in the number of pitches.

The specifics of the application are to:

  • Make the permission permanent
  • Increase the number of caravans to 18
  • Double the number of pitches from 4 to 8

The application is open for comments until the 16th August.

You can view and comment on planning application 2019/1769 here

The Hersham Hub approached local Councillors for comment but as both Cllr Roy Green and Cllr Ruth Mitchell both serve as members of the Planning Committee are unable to say much.

Ruth Mitchell did say:

“As a member of the Planning Committee I am required to keep an open mind. However I shall certainly take note of all our residents comments on this application and urge them to write in.”

And Cllr Roy Green was able to provide us some additional background and history:

“The whole situation about this site is an ongoing saga which the council seems to find impossible to find an answer to.

The site was originally purchased as part of the land to build Burhill School back in the 1950s but was never used by the school, the Surrey County Council preferring to lease it out for grazing.

At one stage the county even try to sell the school playing field but joint action by the community and the school persuaded a planning inspector that this would have such a big effect on the school and the Hersham community, so he put all of the school grounds in the Green Belt to protect it from development including the Traveller field.

If this short sighted approached had been allowed to proceed, the recent extensions to the school would not have been possible.
It would seem that the county are more interested in money that the welfare of children in their charge.

When the proposed sale went to the Local county committee (which is a joint committee between Elmbridge and Surrey councillors) I asked why the school could not benefit from the land to enlarge the school playing field and I was told that the school did not want the land. This was a lie as when I checked with the School Governors and Head teacher, no one from County had consulted them.

So the sale went through and Surrey was paid £26,000 for the land, a very high price for grazing land. Within weeks the travellers started to move mobile homes onto the site much against the wishes of local residents and local councillors. They did this without planning permission.
When they applied they were refused and have been refused on another two occasions.

When they went to appeal a planning inspector allowed them to stay for a temporary period of five years which has recently ended. This was because in fifteen years Elmbridge had not provided a Traveller site which they were committed to do so by law.

When the Residents / Lib Dem Group took on the administration of the council in 2016 , I persuaded them to set up a Traveller site working party to look into providing sites.

I was Chairman for the first year and was making some progress towards doing just that. However when the RA/Lib Dem lost control of the council the Tories decided that someone else should be Chairman of the group and it would appear that very little has been done since, not according to the minutes anyway.

So Elmbridge has failed to provided sites and it is likely that the Travellers may be given permanent permission ( I am not prejudging the issue only stating the facts).”

To date there are 42 objections with the majority of concerns around the narrow access point and proximity to Burhill School and one comment in favour – this has been submitted by the planning consultants employed by the applicants so perhaps a slight vested interest there.

Some of the comments are listed below:

An objection from the Headteacher of Burhill School states:

As head teacher of the school next to this site we as a school feel strongly that the number of pitches should not be increased. We have co-existed happily next to the site as it is, and more temporary pitches (short term renting) would cause disruption. Pleasant Place is not wide enough for big vehicles and will not support the constant moving of vehicles in and out.

This is backed up by a seperate objection by the Burhill school Governers:

The governing body of Burhill Primary School object to this application. We feel strongly that additional temporary pitches will lead to significant disruption. The access via Pleasant Place is not designed for large vehicles and will not support the constant moving of vehicles in and out. We are particularly concerned that the additional traffic generated will make access to the school less safe for our children.

Other comments include:

“The plot in question is already causing disruption to the neighbourhood with large vehicles moving in and out and generators going all hours. It was never intended to be used for permanent occupation. I believe structures and roads have been added to the site without the correct permissions. There was only ever temporary approval granted and it should not be made permanent. Pleasant Place is a fairly narrow road with private dwellings, access to the Primary School and a busy Doctors Surgery. It is unsuitable and dangerous for large vehicles. The site would be better used by the neighbouring school which has doubled in size. I oppose this
application totally.”

“I believe this should not be allowed and the land should be rightfully returned to Burhill School. In my opinion the existing development on this site was not applied for or dealt with in the correct manner but that does not mean any future plans shouldn’t be subject to the correct procedures. I believe a new site should be found for these travellers which does not impact on the school and residents of Pleasant Place.”

“This piece of land DID NOT have planning permission for residential use, it was sold for grazing horses etc. If this had been residential it would have cost 1000% more. I and other residents have to obey the law why can they be allowed to ignore it. They should have been evicted immediately they are making a fool of the council and us.”

“The existing side already resembles an industrial one with Llangefni lorries parked. These lorries cause trouble with the road as they are too big to get along easily. More pitches would mean even more vehicles and more traffic disruption. Being right next to a primary school this is an environmental/pollution hazard as well as being dangerous.”

Residents from Pleasant Place have also had their say on this application:

“Sir, I should like to object to this planning application on the following grounds:-
That the original planning application considered some years ago was for a tempoary site only, which has never been adhered to.
Secondly, the increase in pitches to a small road next to a busy school and doctors surgery.
Third, the speed of vehicles from your site is presently intolerable so more is a complete no no.
Next, the parking on the road is, to say the least, currently full.
Lastly, it should be noted that, the applicants have had the audacity to commence work to increase pitches to the site. To my knowledge, said work has been stopped by your enforcement officers, however, spoil has covered the road with no attempts to remove.
I find this application totally unacceptable!”

“I wish to register my opposition to this application for the following reasons: The site is green belt land, the planning application will require a change of use inconsistent with government guidelines planning applications for travellers and gypsies. Increased traffic and hazard. And concern that any limitations imposed will not be respected and the number of mobile homes will increase further. We have seen the piles of gravel deposited on the area where lorries are presently parked and fear this will mean further development.”

“I would like to strongly oppose the 2019/1769 planning application.
This green belt land has been occupied for 10 years under temporary permission whilst a permanent was meant to be sourced.
The conditions stipulated in the previous application (2014/1519) have not been adhered to. For example, number of pitches, 7.5 ton trucks are parked at all times on the land etc
I would also like to add that building work has already commenced on the land prior to any authorisation being given.
The increase to road traffic in Pleasant Place has been substantial, particularly as the access point to the site is at one of the narrowest parts of the road. This causes a risk to children and parent pedestrians going to and from school, residents etc.
If the plans are approved, the additional pitches will be directly to the rear of 43, 45 and 47 Pleasant Place causing increased disturbance, noise and disruption….which is already an issue at times.”

The Planning Statement submitted by Philip Brown Associates (planning consultants to the current occupants of the site) says:

RE: REMOVAL OF CONDITION 1OF PLANNING PERMISSION 2014/1519 (USE OF LAND AS A CARAVAN SITE FOR 4 PITCHES) TO MAKE THE PERMISSION PERMANENT.

PLANNING STATEMENT

Planning permission was granted on appeal, under application No. 2008/1040, for the material change of use of land to use as a private gypsy caravan site, comprising 4 pitches. Planning permission was granted for a temporary period of 5 years and, was renewed by the Council, under application No. 2014/1519, for a further 5-year period expiring on 30 June 2019.

Planning permission No.2014/1519 was granted subject to 14 conditions, of which conditions 8, 10, and 11have been discharged and, are no longer necessary Conditions 3 6 7 9 12 and 13 remain relevant and should be reimposed.

This application seeks removal of Condition 1which would have the effect of making permission permanent. My clients also seek variation of Condition 14, by increasing the number of pitches from 4 to 8, to reflect Current occupancy of the site. Condition 5 currently limits the number of caravans to 10, of which no more than 4 are to be static caravans/mobile homes. The 8 proposed pitches would accommodate a total of 18 caravans of which, no more than 8 would be static caravans/mobile homes. Condition 4 limits occupation of the site to named individuals.

The original families are still present but, in addition, Plot 2 is occupied by Noah Eastwood and Louise Appleby (parents-in-law of Aaron Smith on Plot 3); Plot 4 has been sub-divided and accommodates John and Anne Lee (Plot 4A) and, Mark and Blondie Eastwood (Plot 4B); Plot 5 has been occupied by Sonny Maughan and Sharon Smith; and, Plot 7 would be occupied by Aaron (Junior) and Annabel Smith.

Planning Considerations

Core Strategy Policy CS22 sets out the Council’s strategy for meeting the accommodation needs of gypsies and travellers, and provides that the Council
will allocate sufficient sites through future Site Allocations DPDs, in accordance with the most up-to-date Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Assessment (GTAA).

Despite the age of the Core Strategy (2011), no sites have been allocated for gypsy and traveller sites through the development plan system and, many of the existing lawful sites, such as The Paddocks and the private sites at Claygate, actually accommodate more families than they are authorised for. The GTAA (February 2017) estimates a need for up to 11 pitches (including need originating from families living on existing gypsy sites who were not interviewed).

However, this GTAA, firstly, only managed to survey a relatively small proportion of the local gypsy community and, secondly, failed to identify the extent of over-crowding on existing sites (compared with authorised site capacities) As a result the GTAA underestimates the size of the base population and, the extent of unmet need.

Notwithstanding this, no new sites have been approved in recent years and, all existing sites are located within the Green Belt.

The Paddocks site is located in the Green Belt adjoining the built-up area of Hersham. Its use as a gypsy caravan site is an inappropriate use of Green Belt land which, as a matter of principle, causes harm. The development has also reduced openness and, caused limited encroachment into the countryside.

However, the site occupies a recessed and unobtrusive site which, has not caused any significant harm to the character or appearance of this edge of settlement location.

Substantial weight must be attributed to the harm to the Green Belt.

On the other side of the balance is the significant unmet need for traveller sites in Elmbridge and, the absence of any alternative sites in the District.

The Council is unable to identify a five-years supply of deliverable land for gypsy and traveller sites and, this position is unlikely to be remedied within the foreseeable future.

The unmet need is evidence of a current failing; the lack of a five-year supply is indicative of failing to meet that need in the future; and the failure of policy that has led to the present situation can be traced back at least to 2001.

It would be possible for one or two of these factors to exist without the third and so, in the balance, each should be accorded weight where they all occur, as in this case.

Policy CS22 does not preclude the location of gypsy and traveller sites in the Green Belt.

It sets out 5 criteria for the consideration of proposals for new sites.

With regard to these, The Paddocks has been found to have safe and convenient access for vehicles and pedestrians; it does not generate an excessive amount or inappropriate type of traffic which is unsuitable for local roads; the site makes adequate provision for the parking and maneuvering of vehicles, storage, children’s play and amenity space; the site is located within easy walking distance of Hersham Village Centre, where there are shops, medical centre and primary school; and, the caravan pitches are not located within an area at high risk from flooding.

The site is in a highly sustainable location, on the edge of the village centre, and complies with all of the Council’s locally specific criteria. This is a matter which should carry considerable weight in favour of this proposal (see paragraph 107 of appeal decision reference No. APP/Q4625/C/13/2209742).

The Paddocks has now been occupied as a traveller site for about 15 years. The accommodation needs of the families occupying the site have grown and, the number of pitches has grown accordingly.

When planning permission was first granted for a temporary period of 5 years it was with the expectation that sites would become available through the development plan process by 2012.

We are now 7 years further on and, no progress has been made on new site provision.

The harm to the Green Belt is clearly outweighed in this case by the combination of other considerations. These considerations are not limited to personal circumstances and unmet need but, in addition include: an absence of alternative sites; lack of a five-year supply; failure of the development plan to meet gypsy and traveller accommodation needs; the fact that any new gypsy site is likely to be in the Green Belt; compliance with the criteria in Policy CS22; the site residents’ need for a settled base in this area; and, needs of the younger children for consistency of access to health care and education.

It is clearly going to prove difficult, if not impossible, to relocate the families occupying The Paddocks. The site helps to satisfy the need for gypsy and traveller accommodation in the District and, Satisfies the site residents’ need for a settled base, equality of opportunity in accessing health, welfare and education, and facilitates a traditional lifestyle. In view of these factors, the effect on home and family life, and best interests of children would be disproportionate if residents were required to leave with no suitable alternative site to go to.

For the above reasons, I respectfully request that this application be approved and, that the uncertainty associated with living on a temporary site be lifted once and for all.

[End Planning Statement]

The application is open for comments until the 16th August.

You can view and comment on planning application 2019/1769 here

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