Shropshire Star

Planning officers back permanent use of site near Ellesmere for traveller family

A traveller family could be allowed to stay on an unauthorised pitch indefinitely after Shropshire Council said their personal circumstances should be taken into consideration.

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Councillors are being recommended to approve the application

James and Barbara Doran have occupied a former pony paddock just outside Welshampton, near Ellesmere, with their young children since the onset of the Covid pandemic.

They are now asking the council to grant planning permission for the permanent change of use of the land to a single-pitch traveller site, after their temporary one-year permission expired in December 2022.

The application says the site will include a static caravan, a touring caravan and an amenity block providing a day room along with kitchen and bathroom facilities.

Permanent permission was previously refused in September 2020, when planning officers said the site was in ‘open countryside’, close to listed buildings, and the plans would have an unacceptable visual impact on the area.

However in December 2021, when the temporary permission was granted, they conceded that the personal circumstances of the family tipped the balance in favour of allowing them to stay in the short-term.

Officers now say those same circumstances – namely the educational and health needs of the four children – mean the family should not be forced out of the area that has become their home.

A decision will be made by the council’s northern planning committee next week, and a report by case officer John Shaw recommends the application is approved.

It says that while there is no shortfall in traveller pitches across the whole county, the site at Park Hall is currently full with a waiting list and there are no private sites nearby with available pitches.

A statement from the council’s gypsy and traveller liaison officer says: “It is evident from my team’s visits that the family are a very private and independent and committed to giving their children the best possible outcomes in life.”

Welshampton Parish Council has objected to the application, along with The Meres councillor Brian Williams and 19 members of the public.

The parish council described the site as “intrusive and incongruous given its setting in open countryside”, while Councillor Williams disputed the claims that there were no alternative sites.

Mr Shaw’s report concludes: “Though visual and landscape harm has been identified, the site is in a suitable location for a gypsy and traveller pitch due to the good level of accessibility occupiers would enjoy when travelling to and from local settlements.

“It has been confirmed that the council are unable to provide any suitable alternative sites and finally, personal circumstances weigh in favour of approval as it has been established that the best interests of children at the site would be served by having a permanent base at which to live.”

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