Calls for clearer policy as traveller is allowed to stay

Beeches Brook
Beeches Brook

A RYE councillor has called for a clearer planning policy after a traveller who set up home on rural land without planning permission was allowed to make it permanent.

Linda Smith set up a mobile home in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty at Beeches Brook, Telham Lane, Battle, in 2007.

She was allowed to remain on the site as Rother Council could not offer her an alternative.

In January she was granted a three year temporary planning permission but submitted an application to retain the mobile home on a permanent basis.

Last Thursday Rother Council’s planning committee approved the application by one vote, cast by chairman Cllr Brian Kentfield.

Rye town and Rother councillor Sam Souster warned: “Cllr Sam Souster said: “This issue has to be sorted because there will be more situations like this. We will be going through this process again.”

Planning officers has said any adverse affect the development had on the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) was mitigated by the extensive planting and screening the applicant had carried out.

But Cllr Deirdre Williams said: “Screening has nothing to do with it. It is whether it should be there at all”.

Council chairman Ian Jenkins said: “One of the main problem is that when people go onto sites without approval, time and time again water and electricity is supplied and we have no say in that.

“We need to work closer with the utility companies.”

Cllr David Vereker said: “She already has temporary permission for three years. It does bring out the wider point of are we going to agree these sites one by one as they come up or are we going to have a proper policy?”

Planning chief Tim Hickling said: “You have an opportunity here to look at one of these sites and this has acceptable merit. It mitigates the affect on the AONB and reduces the pressure on other sites.

“If this does go to appeal I am pretty certain we would lose.

Cllr John Lee said: “Will people have a cynical view of the consultation process (for travellers sites) if we are deciding this issue today?”

Cllr David Vereker asked: “Is it a good planning reason to approve something because it will reduce the demand.?”

Tim Hickling responded: “No but you have something here that is acceptable on its own merits.”

Cllr Joy Hughes said: “Everything started without planning permission. This could all happen again.”

Cllr Prochak wanted the item to be referred to full council saying: “These issues affect all members. I want it to go to full council.”

But she was overruled because only councillors who have had formal training in planning issues would be able to take part in the debate or vote, effectively ruling out any councillor who does not already sit on the planning committee.