Consent to build traveller site revoked

Consent to develop a controversial gipsy caravan park at Harleston was yesterday revoked. The council-owned meadow at Rushall Road was set to become a temporary home for five gipsy families currently living at an unauthorised settlement at nearby Denton, from which they have been given notice to quit.

Consent to develop a controversial gipsy caravan park at Harleston was yesterday revoked.

The council-owned meadow at Rushall Road was set to become a temporary home for five gipsy families currently living at an unauthorised settlement at nearby Denton, from which they have been given notice to quit.

But South Norfolk district council planning committee members unanimously agreed to overturn the three-year approval, granted to applicant Lisa Smith last September, because they had been wrongly advised by county highways officials that a safe access could be created without having to remove any trees.

The Save Harleston Group, whose 350 members are spearheading opposition to the scheme, insisted at the time that the county had made a mistake.

And this was later confirmed when planning officers referred the application back to the committee after it emerged that five oak trees and 218 metres of hedging would have to be ripped out to ensure good visibility for motorists exiting the site.

South Norfolk's planning manager Paul Whitham said if he had known in September he would have recommended refusal because the loss of trees with a life expectancy of another 200 years could not be justified. Felling them would change the whole character of the area, and the authority's landscape and countryside officers held the same view.

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Local district councillor the Rev Clive Hudson said: “Despite the need to solve the problems of housing very needy people, today is a planning decision and there are strong reasons to revoke. It is clear to all the people in Harleston, no matter how sympathetic you feel towards the applicants, there is only one planning decision you can make and that is to support the planning officers.”

South Norfolk Council's own application to develop the site for gipsies and travellers was thrown out in 2005.

Cllr Adrian Brownsea, who also represents Harleston, said: “I hope this will be the end of this saga which has been going on for 15 months now. We know as a council we have duties to all the community, including the gipsies, and there is a will to try and solve this problem, but using Rushall Road as a temporary site is not the way forward.”

Lorry drivers use the route as a shortcut between Harleston and the A140 and it was claimed the gipsies' children would be at risk.

Town council chairman Lynne Aldred said, after the meeting: “We are very pleased with the outcome. We are also sorry for the applicants that it has come to this, but this is a dangerous site. It is not just about trees.”

The gipsies are currently seeking consent to stay at their Denton site for another three years.