Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum by East Cambridgeshire District Council (TF 54)

  Thank you for your letter dated 22 February regarding travelling fairs, which I have discussed with David Archer who has asked me to reply to your request for evidence on what is a difficult issue.

  In structuring this letter I shall attempt to respond to the questions raised by the Sub-Committee, namely:

    —  whether this Council operates a Policy towards showmans accommodation and if so how the Policy has been applied; and

    —  whether East Cambridgeshire District Council takes account of the needs of travelling showpeople when determining such applications and what action has been taken under Section 15 of the Circular to help find appropriate sites.

  I also intend to respond briefly to the representation made by David J Loveday on this issue and in particular his reference to East Cambridgeshire.


  There is no Policy relating to travelling showmen in either the adopted 1991 Ely Local Plan or the 1993 East Cambridgeshire Local Plan. The Council is however in the final stages of adopting a District Local Plan (adoption mid 2000) which does contain a specific policy relating to showmen. This Policy and its supporting text (as amended) read as follows:

Paragraph 3.76

  "Travelling showpeople are subject to separate consideration from gypsies, although in many respects their locational needs and requirements may be similar. Circular 22/91 states that Showpeople are self employed businessmen who travel the country holding fairs, chiefly during the summer months. Although their work is of a peripatetic nature, showpeople nevertheless require secure, permanent bases for the storage of their equipment and more particularly for residential purposes. Showpeople's sites are often unusual in that they combine residential, storage and maintenance uses within a single site. These uses are rarely appropriate within the built framework of our existing towns and villages and it may be appropriate to consider alternative locations. Applications from travelling showpeople for development in the open countryside will be determined on their merits, taking account of the special locational requirements of this group of people."

Policy 32

  "Planning applications by travelling showmen will be considered against the Council's normal policies of countryside protection. The Council may grant planning permission for sites in the countryside where the following criteria have been met:

    (i)  The applicants can demonstrate that their particular requirements cannot be reasonably met within existing towns and villages of East Cambridgeshire.

    (ii)  The proposed development would not cause harm to the countryside or to the character or setting of settlements within the countryside (either individually, or cumulatively).

    (iii)  The proposed development would not cause harm to the amenities of adjoining land users by way of noise or traffic movements.

    (iv)  Sites should be reasonably flat, be easily accessible from the primary road network, but not via direct access to a trunk or primary road and be reasonably convenient for schools and other community facilities.

    (v)  Sites should be well related to the public transport system.

  Only in exceptional circumstances will applications be permitted in the Cambridge Green Belt or in those areas designated for their landscape, historic or wildlife value."

  The above policy was subject to a number of objections at the Deposit stages and I have attached the relevant excerpts from the Inspectors report (Appendix A) [5]The Council has resolved to accept all of the Inspectors recommended changes in respect of this Policy and is currently consulting on modifications to the plan.


  Because of the advanced stage that the emerging Local Plan has now reached the Council has attached considerable weight to this guidance when determining applications from showmen.

  The Council has determined three applications for travelling showmen's sites since receiving the Local Plan Inspectors report in June 1999. The first application was approved on the 7 July 1999 and a copy of the relevant committee report is attached (Appendix B) 4. The second application (also recommended for approval) was refused by planning committee following consideration of the application (report and reasons for refusal at Appendix C) 4. The applicants have not sought to appeal against that refusal, although a concurrent refusal for gypsies on the same site has been allowed on appeal. The third application (by Mr Loveday) was a resubmission of an application previously dismissed on appeal following a major public inquiry and was also refused (report at Appendix D) 4.

  A fourth application is currently being determined.


  The Council attempts to give every assistance to showpeople in search of sites as required by section 15 of the circular.

  You will be aware of course, that there is no longer a requirement to maintain a register of unused or under-used land owned by public bodies and that the circular needs to be updated on that point. This Council owns very little land and does not maintain a register. We have however, recently taken part in the National Land Use Database Survey, the findings of which I understand will be made public in due course. Unfortunately, the result of this survey suggests that there is very little brownfield, or previously used land in the District which would be suitable for showpersons accommodation. Indeed, almost all applications for gypsies and showpeople in the district have been on greenfield sites, emphasising the lack of other sites suitable for this purpose.

  Because of the shortage of unused or under-used sites, the Council has developed a criteria based approach to guide applications in the selection of suitable sites. Planning officers are happy to give advice on the suitability or otherwise of sites and indeed the consent referred to above was the culmination of extensive discussions between a planning officer and showman prior to an application being submitted.


  Given that Mr Loveday has made a number of comments in respect of East Cambridgeshires response to showmen, I believe that it is necessary to briefly respond to some points raised in his submission.

  Paragraph 4.4  - East Cambridgeshire does in fact contain parts of the Cambridge Green Belt, contrary to Mr Lovedays assertion.

  Paragraph 4.5  - Mr Loveday refers to his objection to the Policy 32 in the deposit local plan. His objection was to the use of the word "exceptionally" at the beginning of the second sentence. In all other respects (including the criteria used for judging sites) Policy 32 was acceptable to Mr Loveday. The inspector accepted his objection and recommended that the word be removed from Policy 32. The Council has accepted his recommendation. In the light of this, I find Mr Lovedays criticism of both the apparent lack of understanding of Local Authorities and his suggestion that the local plan process does not address the needs of showmen somewhat difficult to understand. The consultation process worked exactly as intended and resulted in a number of changes to this Policy. Indeed Policy 32 is now, (presumably) exactly as Mr Loveday would wish and properly meets their needs.

  Paragraph 4.8  - I wish to avoid spending too much time rehearsing the pros and cons of the case referred to by Mr Loveday. It is however worth pointing out that his clients moved onto a site which has a long history of planning refusals (upheld on appeal) for gypsy accommodation, without seeking prior advice, or seeking to obtain planning permission. The Inspector refused an application primarily on issues of harm, but felt that the policies and practice of East Cambridgeshire towards showpeople were sufficiently flexible that alternative sites could be found (copy of the appeal decision at Appendix E). In the period since the dismissal, planning permission has been given for a different group of showpeople on a disused piggery site in very close proximity to the appeal site. Although Mr Loveday has written to the Council requesting a copy of the register of unused or under-used land (which the council do not keep for the reasons outlined above) there have been no other approaches to the Planning Department with alternative sites. If I can help further in this issue please let me know.

Geoffrey Hall

Principal Forward Planning Officer

March 2000

5   Ev. not printed. For further information please contact East Cambridgeshire District Council. Back

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