Recommendation: That the Committee agree, in light of the additional information, that they would have authorised the grant of conditional planning permission
Proposal: Application to vary condition 1 (relating to temporary and personal restrictions) of planning consent 181694 which was a variation to conditions 1 (names of residents) and 2 (number of pitches) of planning permission 152821 (appeal decision APP/X0360/C/15/3085493 dated 15/1/18) for the change of use of land for the stationing of caravans for residential purposes.
Applicant: Mr B, C and Ms C Maughan
The Committee received and reviewed a report about this application, set out in agenda pages 73 to 94.
The Committee were advised that the Members’ Update included information that the applicant had provided details of a land search for 9 potential plots both within and outside of the Borough, however they had been advised that the sites were either too expensive or were not suitable for occupation.
The Committee were advised that since the deferral of this application from the November Committee to request more information, an appeal had been submitted to the inspectorate and therefore the Inspector would make the final decision on this application. The Inspector had asked the Committee to consider whether, in light of any and all additional information received to date, they would have resolved to grant planning permission at the November Committee.
Philip Bain, resident, spoke in objection to the application. Philip stated that he was representing the residents of Blagrove Lane, whom had one central argument – which was that the site location was located in a field sold as horse grazing land and was not suitable for the purposes of stationing of caravans for residential purposes. Philip was of the opinion that Wokingham Borough Council (WBC) needed to do more to find the applicant a suitable site. Philip stated that the number of caravans on site had increased over time and there was a concern that this increase would continue over time. Philip added that the caravans could be seen from the surrounding residential properties. Philip queried why the applicant needed a site in this specific area, whether the applicant was on the waiting list for a site and why temporary planning permission was continually granted.
Lettie Maughan, applicant, spoke in support of the application. Lettie stated that the application site had become their family home, comprising of three families. Lettie added that their families were growing and they had recently had a bereavement which had strengthened their desire to keep all of the families together. Lettie stated that they had tried to find an alternative site however all of the sites were either full or unsuitable. Lettie added that she understood that some residents may not want to live near a stationary caravan site, however this site had become a family home which met their needs. Lettie stated that they had been on a waiting list for a pitch for three years and nothing suitable had been offered in that time. Lettie commented that some of their family had moved to a pitch only to be evicted due to the different backgrounds of the existing travellers. Lettie asked that the Committee give her and her family a chance.
Sarah Kerr, Ward Member, spoke in objection to the application. Sarah stated that this application was contrary to planning policy, however it was previously allowed due to significant human rights factors relating to the applicant. Sarah queried whether the applicant had been on the waiting list for a pitch since the grant of temporary planning permission or prior, and asked how the applicant might be elevated up the waiting list. Sarah was of the opinion that the racial background of existing travellers should not be a factor in identifying a suitable pitch. Sarah asked that should temporary planning permission be granted, what could be done to ensure that the permission was only temporary and the site was fully restored on its cessation.
Stephen Conway was of the opinion that it was unfortunate that the agent had persuaded the applicant to appeal on non-determination rather than wait for the Committee decision, as the application was only deferred to allow further information to be provided. Stephen stated that given the additional information, he believed that he would have voted in favour of temporary planning permission subject to conditions.
Andrew Mickleburgh was of the opinion that the additional information provided was quite limited, and it would be beneficial to receive more information on pitch allocation. Andrew added that in his opinion the site was unsuitable for stationary caravan usage for residential purposes, however the human rights considerations were now even more important due to the increase in the size of the families present on site.
Chris Bowring queried whether the information regarding the search for nine potential plots by the applicant, contained within the Members’ Update, had been corroborated. Graham Vaughan, Case Officer, stated that the information had only been provided at the beginning of the week and was limited, however early indications were that the information was accurate.
Chris Bowring was of the opinion that the application should be approved in principle should the additional information be considered as satisfactory by Members.
Carl Doran was of the opinion that the human rights issue considerations made by the Inspector originally still stood.
Rachelle Shepherd-DuBey queried whether there were any suitable sites that met all of the needs of the applicant. Marcia Head, Development Management Team Leader, stated that there were currently no sites either in private ownership or Council owned that were deemed as suitable for the applicant.
Angus Ross queried what the legal position would be should the Committee be minded to approve the application in principle and the applicant be minded to withdraw the appeal. Simon Weeks stated that the applicant would need to submit a new planning application.
Malcolm Richards queried what could be done to ensure that a new site was found within the next two years. Simon Weeks stated that the new Local Plan would include a call for sites. WBC were in a position to increase the number of allocated sites (within Government guidelines) should they wish.
RESOLVED That application number 192128 be approved in principle, subject to conditions and informatives as set out in agenda pages 73 to 74, with the final decision to be made by the Inspectorate.