Gypsy wins her planning fight after six years

Beeches Brook
Beeches Brook

A GYPSY has won her six year fight to remain on land in Battle.

Linda Smith has lived at Beeches Brook on Telham Lane since September 2007, but risked being ejected from the site by Rother District Council following a series of planning breaches.

Rother was due to take enforcement action against Linda in April 2010, but following an appeal the Government Planning Inspectorate granted permission for her to keep her mobile home on the site for another two-and-a-half years.

In August 2012 the permission was extended for a further three years to allow Rother time to find land for gypsy sites.

The search is still ongoing.

But at a meeting last week, Rother’s planning committee narrowly voted to grant permanent planning permission.

Overcrowding on the Robertsbridge travellers’ site led to increased tensions, forcing Linda to leave for Battle.

Battle Town Council has repeatedly called for planning permission to be refused for Beeches Brook.

Debating the issue at the planning meeting, Cllr Sue Prochak said: “This is an issue and I support Battle Council’s call for refusal.

“I support Linda. She has had to deal with a nightmare scenario but we are not actually approving her, we are approving a permanent travellers’ site. It is the principal.

“Rother District Council has created this situation by dragging its feet on providing permanent sites for travellers.”

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 replied: “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 Maurice Watson said: “We so have to accept this site. I don’t think we have a lot of choice.”

Cllr Tony Ganly said: “I don’t know of any local community which is going to be in favour of having a gypsy or traveller site next door, but that is irrelevant.

“We have to look at this on its own merits.”

Cllr Prochak wanted the item to be referred to full council, but was overruled as only councillors who have had formal training in planning issues would be able to take part in the debate or vote, ruling out any councillor who does not sit on the planning committee.

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.”

Approval was given using committee chairman Brian Kentfield’s casting vote.