Swale council's headquarters in Sittingbourne
A decision to refuse a controversial request for a gypsy family to set up home on a piece of land has been welcomed – but a councillor says it’s ‘bonkers’ they have been given a year to move.
Swale council’s planning committee voted against the retrospective application for Woodlands Lodge, Greyhound Road, Brambledown, at a meeting on Thursday.
It was for the change of use to allow a residential caravan site with three mobile homes and the erection of an amenity building and laying of hardstanding.
The decision to turn it down was because they considered that, added to the existing sites in the road, it would dominate the settled community.
An enforcement notice requiring it to be removed and the site returned to its previous condition within 12 months will be issued.
The applicants can appeal.
There had been strong opposition, including from Minster Parish Council and Brambledown Residents’ Association, which both raised concerns about the lack of enforcement action taken by the council against previous breaches and they said it would harm the character and appearance of the countryside.
Minster Cliffs ward councillor Andy Booth (Con) had asked for the enforcement period to be reduced to six months as he said to give a year is bonkers and something he will be pursuing in future but he said he was pleased he was supported by his fellow councillors in refusing it.
He says the nine pitches already on the site are oversubscribed and the problem with adding more is that there isn’t the infrastructure to support more people and it also increases anxiety of the settled population.
“Whilst I’m sympathetic to the plight of the gypsy traveller community, I’m also sympathetic to the settled residents of Brambledown,” he said.
“We need to achieve balance between the settled community and the gypsy traveller community and there is a notable imbalance whereby they outweigh the settled community and that is something that cannot be allowed.
“They have been flexing the regulations and the law for enough time now – enough is enough.
“They need to understand there is a proper and appropriate planning system and they need to start abiding by that procedure that everyone has to abide by.”