QUEEN'S BENCH DIVISION
THE ADMINISTRATIVE COURT
B e f o r e :
|THE QUEEN ON THE APPLICATION OF TINA BOWERS||(CLAIMANT)|
|(1) THE FIRST SECRETARY OF STATE|
Smith Bernal Wordwave Limited
190 Fleet Street London EC4A 2AG
Tel No: 020 7404 1400 Fax No: 020 7831 8838
(Official Shorthand Writers to the Court)
MR J MAURICI (instructed by TREASURY SOLICITOR) appeared on behalf of the 1st DEFENDANT
Crown Copyright ©
Thursday, 13th November 2003
"I am appealing because I need permanent living quarters for storage. Also for my 5 year old granddaughter to go to school. She has been going to school since she was 4 years old. She has made lots of friends and she is getting on very well with her reading and writing. Also I need to be near hospitals and doctors as I have had a stroke. I have lost use of my right arm and my legs. Also I have high blood pressure. I need to stay permanently. I have one big caravan, 2 small caravans, which I use as bedrooms for my 15 year old daughter, and a bedroom for my son and granddaughter and her mum. We have all lived for 3 and a half years. It would break my granddaughter's heart to be separated from us as she has been with us since she was born."
"She had had a stroke on the left side. She was admitted to hospital."
"Thurrock finds itself with a vast tract of Green Belt Land developed with showpeople's plots. This land is occupied by many members of the showperson community who have no traditional links to Thurrock or to this part of the Country. Indeed it is inconceivable that there should be so many local showpeople."
"Given that the Inspector was not convinced that so much land needed to be made available for use by showpeople it would be inconsistent to now consider that the need for this land plus another site (the appellant's site) exists. Certainly the appellant has submitted no evidence to suggest that this is the case."
"The appellant refers to her having had a stroke and the need to be near hospitals and doctors. Other than for a letter from Dartford and Gravesham NHS Trust dated 12th July 2002 which confirmed that the appellant attended the Accident and Emergency Department at Darent Valley Hospital on 11th March 2002... no evidence has been submitted to suggest that there are any compelling health reasons why the appellant needs to reside on the appeal site. There is no reason to believe that if she is in need of health care that the continuity of such could not be maintained if she was to live in a different location...
"Circular 22/91 highlights the unusual accommodation needs of travelling showpeople. The appellant's circumstances are very different from those of the typical showpersons envisaged in the Circular who needs living accommodation and somewhere where large items of fairground equipment can be stored and maintained. As noted in the Council's committee report the appellant has no large items of showground equipment and no need for large areas for storage...
"There must also be considerable doubt whether it would be appropriate to consider the appellant's family as showpeople and thus persons to whom the 'accommodating' nature of the advice contained in Circular 22/91 should be applied. The appellant is not a member of the Showmen's Guild and she has described her husband as a traveller, rather than a showman, who has given no indication himself of employment in the industry. They have previously resided on one of the Council's official Gypsy sites which is highly unusual for members of the showpersons's community..."
"In addition the local planning authority doubts whether the appellant has been in occupation of the land for this period of time. No evidence has been submitted to demonstrate that occupation has occurred for this length of time. The planning application was submitted on 12th January 2001 on or around which time the local planning authority understands occupation of the land commenced. Whether occupation has occurred for two years or three and a half as suggested by the appellant this does not amount to any great economic or social bond to the locality."
"Firstly, whether the proposals represent inappropriate development within the Green Belt and, if so, whether there are any very special circumstances sufficient to overcome the presumption against such development and, secondly, the effect of the proposed development on the Landscape Improvement Area."
"Policy H14 identifies those sites established and approved for use as permanent living quarters for travelling showpeople and states that no further sites will be permitted for this use other than in exceptional circumstances."
"Encourages Local Planning Authorities to adopt a sympathetic approach to the needs of travelling showpeople, especially when preparing Development Plans. It indicates, however, that such needs do not constitute sufficient grounds to override national or local policies restricting development in specially protected areas such as Green Belts".
"Were I to allow the appeal, I consider that the council would be significantly constrained in its ability to resist future applications for similar developments in the area."
Again, there is no challenge to this conclusion of the Inspector.
"9. It is, however, necessary to consider whether there are any very special circumstances that would outweigh the harm done to the Green Belt if the development were to proceed. The appellant has indicated that she has recently suffered a stroke and needs to be near hospitals and doctors. There is, however, no evidence to suggest that appropriate and continuing healthcare could not be obtained were she to live in a different location and, in my view, the appellant's medical condition does not constitute a very special circumstance sufficient to justify allowing the appeal. This view is supported by Planning Policy Guidance Note No 1 - General Policy and Principles - which advises that personal circumstances will rarely outweigh more general planning considerations.
"10. The appellant has also expressed a wish not to be separated from her granddaughter who has attended the local school for the past year and made friends in the area. Whilst I have every sympathy with the appellant's position, I consider such personal circumstances to be outside the scope of the 'very special circumstances' that PPG2 and the Local Plan require to be established in order to justify an exception to Green Belt policy. In any event, I see no reason why dismissal of this appeal should necessarily result in the different generations of the family having to live separately.
"11. As I have indicated above, I consider the appeal proposals to constitute inappropriate development and find that there are no very special circumstances sufficient to outweigh the harm it would cause to the Green Belt. The proposal is thus in conflict with the objectives of PPG2 and Development Plan policies."
"On the opposite side of Buckles Lane is an extensive area of land on which a mass incursion of showpeople has taken place. An inspector who heard appeals against enforcement notices relating to this land allowed the appeals, quashed the notice and granted temporary planning permission for three years until 26th March 2004."
"Other land in Buckles Lane is identified as showpeople's permanent quarters to which policy H14 relates. This states that this allocation represents more than adequate permanent accommodation for showpeople and that no further sites will be permitted for this use unless exceptional circumstances can be demonstrated.
"Department of the Environment Circular 22/91 highlights the unusual accommodation needs of travelling showpeople and of the difficulties showpeople have experienced with the planning system because their sites do not easily fit into existing land use categories. Notwithstanding this the circular confirms that very special circumstances have to be demonstrated to justify allowing development for purposes not normally appropriate in the green belt.
"The land designated for showpeople quarters on the local plan is now fully occupied save for a small section which has detailed planning permission but has yet to be occupied by the owners."
"Given that this [ie the temporary three year permission] was considered by the Planning Inspectorate to be the most appropriate way of dealing with the needs of showpeople it would be contrary to this process to permit additional showpeople's plots on an ad hoc basis. The land subject of the temporary permission is nearly fully occupied. Notwithstanding the appeal decisions the Council is very strongly of the view that this land is not needed for the purposes of meeting the needs of local showpeople and the unavailability of space within this area should not be a material consideration in the determination of this application."
Accordingly the officer recommended that planning permission should be refused.