Planning application highlights South Kesteven travellers policy “failure”

A planning application near Grantham has highlighted “failures” in South Kesteven District Council’s Local Plan to provide suitable locations for travellers.

The authority’s planning committee on Thursday gave the go ahead on a temporary basis to James Doherty’s part-retrospective proposals for a change of use of land off Main Street, in Carlton Scroop, to use it as a residential caravan site for two gypsy families.

However, several councillors felt they were forced into the position after it was pointed out there was a policy failure to provide official sites for traveller families to go in the district.

A new local plan will be ready by 2023 which reportedly includes new sites being looked at, however, this did not help councillors in the short term.

SKDC’s assistant director of planning Emma Whittaker told councillors: “The reason that we’ve recommended temporary permission is that we don’t have a five year supply for gypsy sites, we’re carrying out the work so that we can get that in place, hopefully get some sites allocated, and who knows this site may be one of them, it may not be one, that’s part of the decision that is yet to be made.”

She said councillors could “come to a different decision” to the officer’s recommendation to approve, but added: “In reaching that conclusion, what you must do is have regard to the fact that we do have a policy failure in terms of provision of gypsy and traveller sites.”

Councillors were concerned that although the approval was temporary, that it could be made permanent in the future.

Councillor Paul Woods said: “There is a problem in the fact that in the local plan, we haven’t identified sites for gypsies and travellers. I think that’s causing us a problem, but I can’t quite understand. We haven’t identified sites, but that doesn’t mean we can just approve any site that comes up surely?

“Surely, it’s got to meet the right criteria?”

Councillor Phil Dilks added: “I’ve got huge sympathy with local residents over the application, but it highlights once again a failure by this council to provide the sites that we have long been required to provide.”

The application had received objections from the ward and parish councillors, with concerns including a lack of schools, shops and other facilities close by.

Councillor Judy Stevens said: “Clearly the local population aren’t happy with [this], you know, the whole thing is a disaster.”

Councillor Robert Reid, who proposed approval of the application, said the authority had a “difficult decision”. And he said he hoped the 2023 local plan would provide extra guidance if and when the applicants came back with any renewed application or one to make the site permanent.

Emma Whittaker told councillors that if there was a “robust” set of sites and a demonstrated five-year supply there would be a “different discussion”.

“It is reasonable to assume that it will be a different set of considerations, a different balance for you to take on a future application,” she said.