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Illegal expansion of Moate Farm traveller site in Fordwich, Canterbury, faces threat of being dismantled

A travellers’ site which almost trebled in size illegally now faces the threat of being dismantled.

Owners of Moate Farm in Fordwich, outside Canterbury, installed 37 motorhomes on the Stodmarsh Road site without securing planning permission.

The site expanded without planning permission
The site expanded without planning permission

And now a retrospective bid to get the expansion officially recognised by Canterbury City Council has been rejected after planning officers threw out the application.

The authority, which says the camp is too “cramped”, now says it will “consider the way forward” should the unauthorised use of the site continue.

The farm’s owners were told three years ago they could increase the number of caravans on the plot from six to 20 after securing the green light from a government planning inspector.

But rather than stop at 20 motorhomes, it emerged last summer that the number of pitches had ballooned to almost 60.

With the council having discovered the illegal expansion, a retrospective application for the additional 37 homes was lodged in September.

Moate Farm is home to a traveller encampment which illegally increased in size from 20 motorhomes to 57
Moate Farm is home to a traveller encampment which illegally increased in size from 20 motorhomes to 57

Landowners attributed the unauthorised growth to a lack of gypsy and traveller camps across the Canterbury district.

They said it would go some way to addressing the “substantial” and “unmet” need for more sites and allow struggling traveller families to settle.

But after attracting objections from Fordwich Town Council and other surrounding community groups, the plans were rejected by the city council last week.

A number of factors were listed as reasons for refusal, including the assertion that the “applicant has not submitted evidence which demonstrates occupants of the site have a nomadic way of life”.

The impact on the surrounding area was deemed to be detrimental, with the refusal notice stating: “The development, by virtue of its scale and number of caravans and tourers combined, results in an incongruous, cramped and prominent form of scheme.

'The development results in an incongruous, cramped and prominent form of scheme...'

“The settlement closest to the application site is Fordwich, known as the smallest town in Britain. Officers consider that the size and density of the caravan site and the resulting number of people living on this site would fail to respect the scale of the small settlement such as Fordwich.”

Site owners hoped that should their bid be refused, the council would still grant temporary planning permission, allowing usage for the next five years.

But the authority deemed the move inappropriate and has now signed off on a full rejection.

Council spokesman Rob Davies said: “Now that we have refused the planning application, if the unauthorised use continues then we will consider the way forward.”

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