Letter - Council must stay strong against gypsy home plans

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RE last week’s Wakefield Express report on the ‘Gypsy Camp’ at Boundary Lane, Warmfield.

Mr and Mrs Smith may come across as disingenuous, but they are anything but.

They know exactly what they are doing, and probably have a better knowledge of the planning laws than most of us.

Following a long tradition in the gypsy/travelling community, they are ignoring all the planning laws, rules, guides and local opinion.

They seem to think that all the codes that we have to work to and obey, do not apply to them.

I have some sympathy with the family, as everyone has to live somewhere, but if they had done this in a correct fashion, they would have had a better reception than they have done.

It is not the first time that a family of travellers has done this in the locality.

They buy land, put a mobile home or static caravan on it and then seek to stay there by obfuscation, repeatedly submitting slightly different plans, appealing, pleading pregnancy, illness or whatever, generally muddying the pools in the hope that the local authority will just give up.

That must not happen in this case, otherwise a precedent will be set, and the area will turn into another Dale Farm.

Mr and Mrs Smith are on a lovely site, enjoying a pleasant outlook and long views over the valley. When it came up for sale, I enquired about it, but was told that under no circumstances would permission be given for residential use, as it is within the Green Belt.

Then along comes Mr Smith who pays more than £40k for three acres of ‘agricultural land’, pays even more for an excellent brick boundary wall, erects the ‘stable block’ that he has permission for, and then puts a mobile home and caravan on the site.

With the money he has already spent, Mr Smith could have gone a long way to buying a house and land suitable for their requirements, off the peg. Lord knows, there are plenty around.

As with the other site, which is on Warmfield Lane (which, also by coincidence enjoys long and pleasant views and has been occupied with mobile homes and caravans in the same manner) residential permission must be denied, and the council must stick to its guns.

Apparently, within the gypsy community, Wakefield MDC has a reputation for not going all the way as far as enforcement is concerned, for financial reasons.

People in this village, who are born and bred here and have businesses here, are having planning permission to expand and improve denied to them on seemingly trivial grounds, and to see the rules and laws flouted in such a manner is insulting.

In case I come across as ‘anti gypsy/traveller’, let me say that I know other ex-travelling families in this area, who have done things in the right way, who have built lovely bungalows and homes, and who work within the community.

It is people like Mr And Mrs Smith who give them a bad name. You cannot ride roughshod over people and get away with it.

Wakefield MDC must take this case to the nth degree and fight it all the way.

John Stead

Wakefield

(full address supplied)

l Ian Thomson, service director for planning at Wakefield Council, says: “We are aware of Mr and Mrs Smith’s circumstances and that they have taken the decision to occupy the site before getting planning permission for residential occupation.

This unauthorised occupation of the site has led the council to take initial enforcement action by the serving of a temporary stop notice and a planning contravention notice against further caravans being brought onto the land. We have already taken action against the unauthorised building of a bungalow and further action will follow.

We are taking legal advice and will continue to talk to the land owners and their legal representatives. Formal enforcement action at this stage cannot be ruled out. The council’s enforcement position is not bound by costs.

The planning position with regard to gypsy and traveller families is set out in government guidance which requires the planning policies and controls are respected by all sections of the community. This does not prevent the council from taking effective enforcement action where this is justified.

Human rights issues and race relations legislation ensure that the council must act reasonably and with fairness and equity. Any retrospective application or enforcement appeals for residential occupation of the site will be dealt with on a without prejudice basis following our normal procedures, and the community will be given the opportunity to make their views known. We wish to assure the community everything possible will be done to resolve the situation within the legal and planning framework.”