End of the road: three year Gypsy saga looks set to end

ONE last ditch attempt by a group of Gypsy families to acquire permission to stay on a patch of green belt land in south Warwickshire has failed.

Councillors who sit on Warwick District Council’s planning committee voted on Tuesday by six votes to three to refuse the group authorisation to continue to live at the site in Kites Nest Lane in Beausale, where they have been living for almost three years.

The decision comes five months after the council resolved to issue a final order requiring the families to leave the site - more than a year after a Government inspector concluded in a report, following a public inquiry, that they would have to leave after 12 months.

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But the Romani Gypsies, who had moved 13 caravans on to the land over a bank holiday in April 2010, persisted in their attempts to stay there by submitting a fresh - partly ‘retrospective’ - application to settle eight caravan pitches and four amenity blocks on the land.

Speaking at the meeting, before which more than 100 letters of objection had been sent to the council, Cllr Sur Gallagher, who represents Beausale, said: “Green belt land must be protected. Since the last application was submitted, nothing has changed.

“It is still green belt, it is still an inappropriate development and it’s still a flood risk area. The application is asking for fewer mobile homes, but the number of mobile homes was never an issue.

“The inspector said in his report that even a small number of pitches on the site would be unacceptable in accordance with green belt policy.”

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Cllr Ann Blacklock, who sits on the planning committee, argued that the Gypsies’ situation had changed, saying: “The Gypsies want to stay there so that their children can go to school. Who are we to criticise that?

“The district council has made no progress at all in finding alternative sites for Gypsies and travellers.

“If we are to find these sites, some are going to have to be on green belt land.”

But Cllr Richard Brookes said: “I have rarely come across planning guidance that is so clear and precise. Planning policy says it is just not allowed.”