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Council faces another legal battle to evict travellers from unauthorised camp site

07 Jul 2024 4 minute read
Blaina Travellers site

Elgan Hearn Local Democracy Reporter

A Welsh council faces another legal battle to evict travellers from an unauthorised camp site in the county borough.

At a meeting of Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council’s Planning committee on Wednesday, July 10 councillors will be given an update on the situation at Glyn Milwr, Stones Houses in Blaina.

The issues at the site go back to September 2020 when the council received complaints that several caravans were occupying land to the north beyond the already approved traveller site at Glyn Millwr.

Planning enforcement officer Paul Samuels said that a: “Site visit substantiated the allegations and a breach present for the unauthorised change of use of and occupation of land as a traveller site.

“In April 2022 a retrospective planning application was submitted for an extension to the existing traveller site to accommodate an additional five pitches including hardstand, parking, toilet, fencing and extension to access drive.”

Refusal

This retrospective application was refused by councillors on Blaenau Gwent’s Planning committee at a meeting in October 2022.

This is because of highway safety reasons and that the proposal was considered to be “cramped” for the five families that live there.

After this application was refused the landowners were told by the council that unauthorised use of the site would need to stop, and all associated caravans and vehicles leave the site within 28 days.

This did not happen and in December 2022 an enforcement notice was served on them.

Blaina Travellers site

In January 2023, Robert Smith lodged an appeal with PEDW (Planning and Environment Decision Wales) against the enforcement notice on the grounds that it “exceeded” the action necessary to remedy the breach of planning control.

They argued that the families living there have nowhere to go to, and that living at the site they are safe, and the children can go to school.

They claimed that the council would be “breaching” its legal duty under the Housing (Wales) Act 2014 that places an onus on local authorities to provide sites for travellers if it identifies that need.

The appellant said that it would be “far better” for the council to set up a temporary traveller site there while looking for somewhere to set up a permanent site.

“No case”

Planning inspector, Iwan Davies said: “The appellant has provided no case as to what lesser step would achieve the purpose of the enforcement notice.

“The appellants submissions in the grounds of appeal all relate to the issue that planning permission should be granted for the development, because there is a housing need to accommodate the families to reside on site and that the best interests of the children, would not be met if they were removed from the site, adversely affecting their safety and education.”

“I am conscious of the fact that what has been raised are factors that relate to the Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED) and Human Rights.

“However, it has been clarified in case law that PSED and Human Rights do not come into play in grounds of appeals where the question is whether the steps exceed what is necessary to remedy any breach of planning control.”

Due to this Mr Davies said that the appeal “fails,” and the enforcement notice is “upheld.”

Mr Samuels said: “At the time of writing this report the enforcement notice has not been complied with and the caravans and vehicles still occupy the land and remains in use as a traveller site.

“Members are advised that the LPA (local planning authority) are currently in discussion with representatives of the site owners.

“Officers are considering its next steps, this will likely require instructing
external (legal) counsel.”


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