Shropshire Star

Divisive traveller pitch for north Shropshire family set to be approved

A new traveller site is set to be created for a family from north Shropshire under plans expected to be approved next week.

A new traveller site is set to be created for a family from north Shropshire under plans expected to be approved next week

Plans for the single-pitch site in Hollinwood, near Whixall, were put forward earlier this year by Gerald and Donna Watton, who said their family had outgrown their current pitch on the council-owned site in Higher Heath.

The proposals have divided the local community, with the parish council and 28 members of the public lodging objections, while 19 people submitted letters of support.

Shropshire Council planning officers have now said the change of use of the land, off Platt Lane, should be approved – but the final decision rests with councillors on the northern planning committee.

If the plans are approved, the site will contain a day room building, a static caravan and a touring caravan, as well as parking and a garden area.

A report by planning officer Richard Denison says the site is within ‘open countryside’ which, under the council’s local development plan, means new building is normally resisted.

It was on this grounds that the parish council objected, saying: “Because this application is for the construction of a permanent structure with associated services, the Parish Council views this application as being no different to an application to build a house in this location.”

Public comments also raised concerns about drainage and wildlife, and said the caravans would be “out of keeping with the area”.

However, supporters said the site was near other buildings and stressed the family’s local connections, with Mr Watton, a well-known tree surgeon, having grown up in the area before starting his own family.

The council’s gypsy and traveller liaison officer said: “The family are model tenants and hard-working, they are always friendly and polite and keep their pitch clean and tidy.

“As per their design and access statement, they are outgrowing the pitch and Shropshire Council do not have a larger pitch to offer and have no current plans to develop or extend its current pitch stock.

“Mrs Watton also suffers with severe arthritis and the submitted plans for the amenity would provide a more suited and tailored use long term.”

The planning officer’s report says the site, while in the open countryside, is considered to be within a reasonable distance of local services.

It adds that the family’s personal circumstances, including the need to stay near the three children’s schools, are also a factor for consideration.

The report concludes: “On balance, it is considered that the scheme is appropriate in its scale, design and location and relation to the specific requirements and personal circumstances of the applicants need that it complies with the adopted policies.

“The development of the site will not result in any visual impact on the landscape and will replicate similar development on the edge of Hollinwood and within the parish of Whixall.

“The proposed access will not result in any highway safety issues, whilst the use would not result in any impact on residential amenity or impact on any boundary trees or ecology.”

The planning committee will decide on the application at a meeting next Tuesday.