Memorandum by Mr Robert A Searles (GTS
I am a resident of Meldretha village
in South Cambridgeshire. This evidence is given as a private individual
but my background and expertise on the evidence is that I am vice
chair of Meldreth Parish Council and I am therefore involved in
local issues with the provision of sites for both gypsies and
travelling showmen. These issues arise both in Meldreth and in
the wider area of South Cambridgeshire. I am giving private evidence
because there is insufficient time to have the evidence approved
by the Parish Council before your deadline.
At a meeting between officers and councillors
of South Cambridgeshire District Council and representatives of
parish councils with concerns on travellers on Thursday 20 May
2004 we were encouraged to submit written evidence to your inquiry.
South Cambridgeshire District Council clearly stated that central
government is continually overriding local decisions and they
have been unable to enter into a satisfactory dialogue with the
Office of the Deputy Prime Minister on this issue.
While I understand that the committee will not
deal with individual cases as part of the inquiry, the following
background is given to help the committee understand both my concerns
and the concerns of many in South Cambridgeshire.
In the village of Meldreth we currently have
on one of the roads leaving the village:
1. A derelict transit gipsy site provided
and owned by Cambridgeshire County Council. This has been unusable
for 10 years after it was destroyed by travellers and that part
of the village became a "no-go" area.
2. An authorised site for travelling showmen
that has integrated well into the village.
3. A small authorised family site which
is well managed.
4. A planning application for a further
travelling showmen's site adjacent to the existing one (2. above).
This is subject to an appeal against refusal of planning permission
by South Cambridgeshire District Council.
On 4. above my concern, and the concern of other
residents of Meldreth, is that the inspector will, on appeal,
override South Cambridgeshire District Council, creating a concentration
of travellers' sites and having a significant adverse effect on
the rural character and appearance of the surrounding area. This
would be against the South Cambridgeshire District Council Local
Plan Policy HG 23 i.
1. Local Plans and Local Development Frameworks
incorporate policies drawn up locally in consultation between
county councils, district councils and parish councils. These
take into account the needs of gypsies and travelling showmen,
the resources available in the locality to support travellers'
sites, the character of the local countryside and the enjoyment
by local people of their villages and the surrounding countryside.
2. In our experience locally there is considerable
money available to travellers to both purchase arable land for
sites and then to employ professional help to submit planning
applications and, if that is refused, take it to a public inquiry.
This is encouraged by companies such as Gladwish Land Sales ii
who are selling land in small plots on the Internet and which
has been the subject of debates in the House of Commons iii.
3. The experience of South Cambridgeshire
District Council in the recent past is that inspectors of public
inquiries are instructed by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister
to override the decisions made locally by giving more weight to
the human rights of the travellers than to those of local residents.
4. This policy, as well as affecting the
quality of local life, is severely stretching local resources
and the ability of South Cambridgeshire District Council and other
agencies (including the police) to maintain control and law and
order. A well-publicised example is at Smithy Fen in Cottenham
where 800 so-called "Irish travellers" arrived in Easter
2003 and have caused major problems and concerns to local residents.
5. There are currently six inquiries either
awaiting decision or about to take place in South Cambridgeshire
between March to August this year. This is severely stretching
the resources of South Cambridgeshire District Council and since
they will use outside Counsel to match the case put by the appellants
this will add extra costs to be born by the council tax payers
of South Cambridgeshire.
i South Cambridgeshire District Council,
Local Plan, Part 1, Adopted February 2004 POLICY HG23: Outside
the Green Belt, proposals for caravans for gypsies and travelling
show people on a site consisting of a single or more pitches,
will only be considered when the need for a site is shown to be
essential to enable the applicants to continue to exercise a travelling
lifestyle for the purpose of making and seeking their livelihood.
Occupation would be restricted to gypsies or travelling show people
(as the case may be) and may be limited to a temporary period
and/or for the benefit of named occupiers(s). Where the need is
proven, to the Council's satisfaction, the following criteria
will have to be met:
(1) The site is reasonably located for schools,
shops and other local services.
(2) The site would have minimal impact on
the amenities of existing local residents and adjoining land uses;
concentration of sites will be avoided.
(3) The site would not, either on its own,
or cumulatively, have a significant adverse effect on the rural
character and appearance, or the amenities of the surrounding
(4) The site can be satisfactorily assimilated
into its surroundings by existing or proposed landscaping; an
approved landscaping scheme will be required.
(5) The use of the site would not give rise
to unacceptable parking, highway access or service provision problems.
(6) The site would not adversely affect
any buildings of historic or archaeological importance, or sites
of wildlife or nature conservation value.
(7) Where planning permission is allowed,
built forms of development will not be permitted except for utility
outhouses. Small stables will be considered on their merits dependingupon
need and the nature of the site.
(8) The site has adequate infrastructural
connections to local services including water supply.
(9) The use would not detract from convenient,
safe and enjoyable use of a public right of way.
iii Hansard, , 4 April 2003: Column 1240,
Adjournment Debate on "Rural Development" by Mr Alan
Hansard, 8 Dec 2003 : Column 859, Planning Permission
For Subdivision Of Agricultural Holdings For Purpose Of Sale