GYPSY families, including some 12 children, mostly primary school age and younger, have been granted permission to set up home for the next four years on a site near Catworth. Up to 20 Gypsy caravans will be allowed on land which the families bought last
GYPSY families, including some 12 children, mostly primary school age and younger, have been granted permission to set up home for the next four years on a site near Catworth.
Up to 20 Gypsy caravans will be allowed on land which the families bought last year but have until now, been prevented from living on.
This week, planning inspector, Simon Emerson granted their appeal against the refusal of planning permission by Huntingdonshire District Council.
Although the inspector found the site poorly located for access to facilities other than Brington Primary School, with "serious shortcomings", he granted temporary planning permission while Huntingdonshire District Council identifies sites for 15 additional permanent pitches it has to find by 2011.
The district council had said that the scale of the proposed development - 10 pitches, each for up to two caravans or one mobile and one static home - made it unsustainable and visually intrusive.
Peter Gaskin, 28, a spokesman for the Gypsy families, who has a two-year-old son, told The Hunts Post: "We are over the moon. It's nice to know that we have got somewhere to go. It will be nice to get off the road.
"We are not here to make trouble for anyone. We are just human beings who want to make a home for our families and children. We hope that, when we have finished, we will have a nice site, which everyone will be pleased with."
After the families bought the land last summer Huntingdonshire District Council obtained a High Court Injunction preventing them from developing it. That including putting down hardcore after it had rained throughout July.
Four men, including Peter Gaskin, were named on the injunction and faced going to prison if they defied it, so the families left the site. Five children who had their names down to start at Brington Primary School were unable to take up their places. Mr Gaskin, who runs a double glazing business based in Bedford, said he hoped the children would now be able to go to school next term.
Kelly Stubley, 27, the mother of two of the children said at the time: "We wanted our children to have an education, it breaks my heart to think they will never come to anything."
The inspector said he had given particular weight in his decision to the need to educate the children but he said he agreed with the district council that the site had shortcomings.
He said: "I have found that the site is poorly located for access to shops, services and facilities, apart from the primary school. Taking into account the wider considerations of sustainability applicable in Gypsy cases, I have found that the location of the site still has serious shortcomings in relation to accessibility, and I consider that it is a generally unsustainable location for the scale and potential scale of the use proposed," he said.
"Against this harm, I recognise that there is a substantial local need for more Gypsy sites, no available alternatives, and it is likely to be four years before additional sites are available through the development plan process.
"All the intended occupiers have a need for a lawful pitch, and I have given particular weight to the need to facilitate the education of school-age children among the families."
But the inspector said access to facilities other than the school would need use of a car, for either safety reasons - the shop in Catworth, because of the narrow approach by road with no roadside verge - or because of the distance - such as doctors' surgeries in Kimbolton, Ringstead and Thrapston. Public transport, he noted, was inadequate.
He attached a number of conditions, including a requirement to clear the site completely at the end of the four-year period and restore it to its pre-settlement state.
The conditions also require each pitch to have a mini-sewage treatment plant, a 10-metre stretch of made-up road leading the site, and at least 15 metres between the B660 and the gate to the site, so that a van and caravan can pull fully off the public highway.
Apart from a requirement to fence off the northern and southern boundaries of the site at Brington Gorse, Brington Road, Catworth, no other fences or lighting will be allowed without HDC's approval. No one other than Gypsies and travellers can live there, nor can any vehicle over 3.5 tonnes be parked there or business materials stored there. Trees are also protected.