Local Plan 2015-2030 Preferred Options for Consultation

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Local Plan 2015-2030 Preferred Options for Consultation

Policy DM28: Gypsy and Traveller Provision

Representation ID: 53

Received: 30/08/2013

Respondent: Brentwood Gypsy Support Group

Representation Summary:

First there is a clear recognition of the duty to provide. Second there has been, even in advance of the new GTAA by ORS, a recognition of the need to allow for natural increase in need. Third there is recognition in principle to include growth in provision for Gypsies/Travellers in general plans for expansion of building development. Our comments, therefore, for the first time in the history of the Support Group, are on details of numbers and locations, not on matters of principle. This is very welcome.

we have specific comments on the size, numbers and locations of sites and pitches.

Full text:

There are a number of important points to commend DM28. First there is a clear recognition of the duty to provide. Second there has been, even in advance of the new GTAA by ORS, a recognition of the need to allow for natural increase in need. Third there is recognition in principle to include growth in provision for Gypsies/Travellers in general plans for expansion of building development. Our comments, therefore, for the first time in the history of the Support Group, are on details of numbers and locations, not on matters of principle. This is very welcome.
Immediate Provision
We believe that, if we accept the Council's classification of Rye Etch as a "new" site, then the initial provision through grant of full permanent planning permission to existing sites lacking full permission, should be for 36 additional pitches immediately. Saying that, we add the caveat that those pitches will vary somewhat in size, some accommodating normally only a single caravan, others, where more than two generations are present, 4-5 caravans, with outbuildings. Some pitches are twice the size of others, but almost all are larger than the average on council-owned site in England and Wales, and our members are not seeking to become more crowded. Numbers on pitches will have to be governed by individual negotiations. But if we define a pitch as a yard accommodating a family grouping living together and regularly sharing meals and family expenses, then the immediate need is for full planning permission to be given for 36 pitches, 33 of which can and should be met through grant of planning permission to existing Gypsy/Traveller landowners, and 3 to a family on land owned by the Church Commissioners. This is in addition to other land occupied by Gypsies/Travellers which already has full planning permission. We list them below:
A. Existing longstanding site newly added to the list of "New" provision.
Rye Etch, Mill Lane, Navestock: 3 pitches. Mr Walter Taylor, with various of his family, has lived, apart from summer travelling, on this land with the consent of the landowner, for more than 50 years, and has enjoyed planning permission for more than two decades. The family were mildly famous in Brentwood because they were for years the only Gypsy family ever knowingly to be given planning permission by Brentwood Council without going to appeal. (This occurred because of the pressure brought by the Church Commissioners after a tenant farmer tried unilaterally to evict them in 1989.) We had supposed that the family had permanent planning permission, and this was why they were not included in previous lists; now we are enquiring whether 7 consecutive planning renewals is a national record for 3-year temporary planning permission! Less amusing is that the fact that the family were only able to get electricity two years ago, and still do not have running water. The family have never had professional legal or planning advice, but have relied on the benevolence of advice from officials from Essex County Council and Brentwood Council. Brentwood Gypsy Support Group fully supports the belated proposal of Brentwood District Council that this family should get full planning permission, and suggests that arranging mains water supply be a matter of urgency. We do think that the recognition of this site should be in addition to sites previously listed for regularisation by Brentwood Council, and figures in previous GTAAs, not instead of them.

B. Sites proposed by the Council, and brought forward from previous lists:
Roman Triangle, Roman Road, Mountnessing: The council proposes 4 pitches, but there are in fact 5 on the site, which was acknowledged in previous council lists. The Brentwood Gypsy Support Group supports the provision of 5 pitches.
Brentwood Gypsy Support Groups supports the following proposals in the Draft Local Plan, as they stand.
Deep Dell Park, Ingatestone 7 pitches
Hope Farm, Horsemanside, 3 pitches
Tree Tops, Curtis Mill Lane, 3 pitches. With regard to Tree Tops, we'd just note that, as on Roman Triangle and Chelmsford Road, Blackmore, there are residents on this site who are great-grandparents, underlining the need recognised by DM 28 of forward thinking in longterm provision.


C. Sites Considered by the Council in previous lists, but omitted from this list
Lizvale Farm, Goatswood Lane/Church Road 4 pitches
Orchard View, Horsemanside 4 pitches
Beads Hall Lane, Pilgrims Hatch 1 pitch
We do not consider there are any material difference between the situation of these families and the familes whose sites are included on the list, or between now and when they were considered for permanent permission by the Council.
We would also like to add that we particularly deplore the vicious and highly personal opposition to and petition against the owner of Cottage Gardens, Beads Hall Lane, which developed only some years after his occupation of the site when his Romani ethnicity was publicly revealed. We consider it very unfortunate that this site should have been dropped from the list of those recommended after this campaign. We urge the council to make it clear to members of the public that stalking planning applicants, and damaging their property is unacceptable behaviour, and we urge that they should urge the police and fire-service to be more pro-active in the investigation of the burning down of the mobile home on this site.
D. Site consistently opposed by the Council
Chelmsford Road, Blackmore, 6 pitches.
This is a case where Brentwood Council has consistently urged that there is an unacceptable use of Green Belt Land. We are unable to accept that this is a sincere objection, since prior to the purchase and occupation of the site by the present owners, the council knowingly tolerated occupation of the land by non-Gypsy caravan-dwellers for a number of years, and only began its enforcement action after Gypsy-owned caravans were moved on. The site - like its nearest neighbour, also only won on appeal supported by the Gypsy Support Group - is on the semi-developed margins of a village like most of the Gypsy sites in the district. Over nearly five years, local opposition has all but disappeared, and the families have integrated well into a village which has always had a sizeable Romani population and presence in its school. The failure to include this site on the list of those recommended has to do not with unacceptable use of the green belt but unacceptable ethnic discrimination.
Forward Provision to 2030
We suggest allowance for forward provision between 2015 and 2030 of some 25-35 pitches, which is not so dissimilar to that proposed by the Council of 24 pitches. We suggest that this number not be too precise, to allow for a flexible market, and to allow for individuals of a nomadic habit of life to move more freely between houses and caravans, and for mixed habitats of high design quality to emerge, as indeed they are already beginning to among wealthier Gypsies/Travellers. The East of England Plan figures will probably prove to be an underestimate, as the growing willingness of Gypsies/Travellers to be open about their identity, and the growing acceptance and even welcome for this from the rest of the community leads to more private site building being achievable. We realise that our figures will be tested by the Essex-wide needs assessment being carried out by ORS, but we would question an assessment which suggested a need by 2030 of much less than 70-75 pitches, or more if allowance is made for families moving to the area.
We welcome the idea of suggesting broad locations in development areas for the location of such sites, and we agree with the Draft Local Plan that 14 additional pitches could be found in additional development at West Horndon. We think indeed that the broad locations for future locations might also include among other possible housing sites identified in the local plan, No. 13 the Council Depot in Warley, No 20, the Sow and Grow Nursery in Pilgrims Hatch, and No.21, the Ingatestone Garden Centre, and possibly others. We think that the broad locations should be more than the actual need, to allow for market flexibility and choice, and we would emphasise that we are NOT suggesting large sites in all these places, but rather a scatter of small family sites, as potential developers, whether private, or social, come forwards over the years.
We would emphasise, indeed, we think it would be unlikely to be a good thing to have 14 pitches all on the same site, especially if that was a council-owned site. There is considerable diversity among the Gypsy/Traveller population in Brentwood, which has three different community languages, English-Romani, Irish Traveller Cant and Scottish Traveller Cant, and different religious affiliations. Good relations are increasing and promoted by the Brentwood Gypsy Support group as is inter-community marriage, and the Brentwood Gypsy Support Group particularly defends the position that marriage between people of different communities does not threaten anybody's identity, but rather enriches us all. Nonetheless, to be neighbours on a caravan site is a more intimate relation than being neighbours in a street of houses, and the preference of all our members is for small family sites rather than large sites.
The great majority of our members are owner-occupiers and want to stay that way. Only one family would themselves consider being council or social landlord tenants, and that not in West Horndon, because their children attend school elsewhere. But most recognise that there may be a need for social provision of accommodation for others less fortunate than themselves, and do not oppose it. Most wish to keep their grown-up married children close by; but recognise that is not always the wish of those grown-up children themselves and that rentable pitches may add flexibility and freedom of choice. We are all agreed, however, that it would be the most foolish and counter-productive waste of public money to force onto a council site people who are eager and willing to provide for themselves on their own land. The cost would be not only the appalling social cost and spectacle of Dale Farm style evictions, but also the ongoing cost of municipal site provision, which is also greater if the tenants are resentful. The Local Plan should identify broad locations and leave open the question of who will develop and at which precise locations.
Conclusion
Overall, despite our criticisms, which relate more to past failings than present attitudes, we do regard this draft local plan as a great step forwards in integrated planning practice. With the appropriate tweaking it could come to be seen as a major triumph for localism and an active community. We look forward to a day when some of our local sites have not actually disappeared into anonymity, but are held up as exemplars of sustainable design, enhancing the environment, and photographs appear of them in architectural journals and Country Life. If the families, architects, developers and planners work together, this could happen. Brentwood's Gypsy/Traveller families are beginning to dare to have dreams and aspirations unimaginable a generation ago. This local plan could set all our dreams and aspirations free.

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