The leadership of Cheshire East Council has hailed its victory in a controversial Traveller site appeal.
The Secretary of State for communities and local government has upheld a decision by Cheshire East Council not to give planning permission for a pitch for up to two Travellers caravans on land off Moor Lane, Mobberley. This overturns an earlier decision on appeal that went against the Council.
This decision comes forward at the same time that the Council has announced plans for a transit site for Gypsies and Travellers.
A site has now been identified on Cledford Lane, Middlewich, which has the potential to accommodate 10 pitches and is being progressed currently through the pre-application stage of the planning process. Cheshire East is in negotiations with the owners of the site with a view to purchasing it.
Council Leader Councillor Michael Jones hailed this week’s ruling (Tuesday) as ‘great news for the people of Cheshire East’.
He added: “This is the right decision and it is good to see the Secretary of State backing Cheshire East and the views of its residents.
“We want to work with Gypsies and Travellers but pitches have to be planned, sustainable, legal and in the right place.”
Councillor Don Stockton, Cabinet member for housing, planning, economic development and regeneration, said: “We warmly welcome this ruling, which upholds the original decision taken by Cheshire East Council.
“We are delighted that the Secretary of State shares this view and has backed the Council and upheld the wishes of local residents.
“In Cheshire East, we want to deliver sustainable sites for Gypsies and Travellers that are fit for purpose. It was and is strongly felt that the site in Moor Lane is not an appropriate development.
“It is great to see common sense prevail.”
The site application was rejected by the Council’s strategic planning Board in November 2012, but that was overturned on appeal by the applicant. Now the Secretary of State has upheld the Council’s original refusal of appeal.
The Secretary of State said the site was an ‘inappropriate development in the greenbelt’ and that ‘harm arising from the development’ would not be outweighed by other considerations.
Councillor Jones added: “Cheshire East Council wants to reassure our residents and businesses that we are committed to providing, as a priority, a transit site to reduce the level of illegal encampments and to enable the police to use their powers, under the Criminal Justice and Public Order act 1994, to direct Travellers on to more appropriate sites.
“This will reduce the negative impact on residents and local businesses. If the Travellers refuse to move to such sites they have to leave the local authority area and cannot return for three months. While occupying the transit site, they will have to pay for services, including rent.”
Cheshire East has experienced a significant rise in the number of illegal encampments across the authority, with 78 being reported between January 1 and November 3 of this year.
These encampments have had a significant impact – not only on local residents but also on businesses too.
A recent Gypsy and Traveller accommodation needs assessment by the Council identified a requirement of between five and 10 transit pitches.
Cheshire East took active steps to commission a site identification study, with the aim of finding a suitable site which could be put through the planning process.