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Council accused of ‘bending over backwards’ to allow traveller site extension

PUBLISHED: 15:28 13 August 2020 | UPDATED: 15:28 13 August 2020

Councillors have hit back after accusations they were bending over backwards to allow plans for a traveller site to be extended. Pictured, Google Map view of Wreningham. Photo: GOOGLE MAPS

Councillors have hit back after accusations they were bending over backwards to allow plans for a traveller site to be extended. Pictured, Google Map view of Wreningham. Photo: GOOGLE MAPS

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Councillors have hit back at accusations they were “bending over backwards” to allow plans for a traveller site to be extended.

Vic Thomson, Conservative councillor and South Norfolk planning committee chairman. Pic: Norfolk Conservatives.Vic Thomson, Conservative councillor and South Norfolk planning committee chairman. Pic: Norfolk Conservatives.

Plans to extend the existing site in Mill Lane, Wreningham, were sent to South Norfolk Council (SNC) to be considered in December 2019.

The extension site, adjacent to the village hall in Wreningham, would mean extra accommodation for a “growing family of four”.

But plans were withdrawn and work begun, a report published ahead of SNC’s planning meeting on Thursday, August 13 stated.

And residents have accused the council of being overly “lenient”, despite a warning that opposing plans based on “who the applicant is” would be unlawful.

Vivienne Clifford-Jackson, South Norfolk councillor and planning committee member. Photo: SubmittedVivienne Clifford-Jackson, South Norfolk councillor and planning committee member. Photo: Submitted

READ MORE: Travellers set up ‘unauthorised encampment’ on car park

Michael Hill, Wreningham Parish Council chairman, said: “We object to this application as it is classic creeping development.”

He said there had been five previous applications “each building on its predecessor to gain permission that would never have been granted if they were as one”.

Ian McCray, resident, said: “Special exceptions seem to have been made. They started building work prior to permission.”

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And Nigel, who did not give his last name, added: “The plans are sketchy to say the least. I don’t know why officers are bending over backwards to support this.”

Mr Hill added: “The council has been extremely lenient.”

But chairman Vic Thomson said: “We treat everyone fairly and equally. I refute that absolutely.”

READ MORE: Travellers move on from ‘unauthorised encampment’ at car park

While Michael Hargreaves, an independent consultant on gypsy and traveller planning issues, said: “Gypsy and travellers are among the most disadvantaged groups in Britain. Because of opposition by people, authorities find it extremely difficult to plan for adequate accommodation.”

He added: “I can’t see that there are any objections to the proposals that would stand up on appeal. It’s difficult to avoid the conclusion that some of them are based on who the applicants are rather than the proposals. A refusal based on this would be unlawful.”

Planning officer Helen Mellors said: “It has been evaluated in accordance with the requirements of evaluating any application.

“There are other applications which are hand-drawn - not everyone hires an agent.”

Councillor Vivienne Clifford-Jackson said: “There seems to be a strong feeling that rules are not enforced consistently. Whatever the facts that is the perception.”

Councillors voted unanimously in favour of the plans.

READ MORE: Travellers move onto park and ride site


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