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

Memorandum by Winchester City Council (TF 55)

  Thank you for your letter dated 22nd February 2000 inviting this Council to respond to the points raised in evidence submitted to the inquiry by Brimble, Lea and Partners and asking for details of the Council's Local Plan policies.

  I have studied the evidence submitted by Brimble Lea and Partners and noted the reference to a site in this District, at Shedfield. This is one of eight areas in the South-East allegedly highlighting a problem and its magnitude. Although I do not know the details of the other cases it appears that all have been dealt with through the proper planning processes and in most cases planning appeals have been heard and dismissed with enforcement action being taken. This being the case I am not convinced that these cases do demonstrate a particular problem and suspect that this volume is tiny in comparison to other types of appeal and enforcement cases.

  I enclose a copy of the policy on travelling showpeople from the Winchester District Local Plan. This plan was adopted in 1998 following the full statutory processes, including a public inquiry. The inspector who held the inquiry considered objections to the policy and I enclose an extract from his report. You will see that this supports the policy and concludes that it accords fully with Government advice. The Inspector's recommendations for changes to the explanatory text of the policy were incorporated. The policy takes full account of the advice in paragraphs 6 and 7 of Circular 22/91. It is a positively-worded policy allowing for the development of sites for travelling showpeople subject to a number of criteria. These criteria reflect the advice of Circular 22/91, as noted by the Local Plan Inspector.

  With regard to the case in Shedfield, within this District, this has been subject to various planning applications and appeals, the later ones of which were determined on the basis of the Local Plan policy. Following the upholding of the enforcement notices the Council has worked with the showpeople's agent to assess possible alternative sites. Various sites were put to the Council for it to assess against the Local Plan criteria. Whilst it transpired that none of the sites met the requirements of the Local Plan policy, the Council have nevertheless taken a positive approach to trying to help with this site. I cannot agree that the showpeople involved have been "constantly" searching for an alternative site: the Council's impression is that the search tends only to be activated when a planning appeal is about to be heard.

  The fact that the Council is now pursuing action through the Courts should not be any basis for criticism. Indeed the Council has received considerable criticism for not taking action more promptly to implement the requirements of the enforcement notices and the Council has been subject to an investigation by the Local Government Ombudsman for allegedly delaying too long in securing compliance. Although the Ombudsman did not uphold this complaint, he was critical of some of the delays in bringing the matter to Court and recommended that the Council should set out a firm programme for achieving the clearance of the site. It is, therefore, quite clear that Court action is necessary and justified. I enclose a copy of the Ombudsman's preliminary assessment, which also summarises the long-running situation at Shedfield. [6]

Steve Opacic

Forward Planning

Team Manager

March 2000

6   Ev. Not printed. For further information please contact Winchester City Council. Back

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