A group of travellers who want permission to put five caravans on a rural idyll in Middleton, near Corby have appealed the refusal of their application after planners who took too long to decide on their application.
Site owner James Delaney had his application to convert ancient Peasdale Hill Field roundly rejected at a meeting of North Northamptonshire Council's (NNC) Corby Area Planning Committee last week.
Their decision came after hundreds of dissenting locals wrote to the planning committee alongside objections from local parish councils, wildlife and ecology representatvies, the Middleton Residents' Action Group and MP Tom Pursglove.
But it has now emerged that, before last week's meeting, Mr Delaney had already appealed to the planning inspectorate because the committee's decision hadn't been made within the statutory eight-week timeframe.
The initial planning application was submitted during the transition period between Corby Council being disbanded and the setting up of NNC and the applicant says it should have been determined by Corby Council before April 27. Local elections took place on May 6. But the application was only considered by the new NNC members on June 21, nearly two months after the original determination date.
The site owners are also appealing against an enforcement notice issued by Corby Council after groundworks started on the Ashley Road ridge and furrow site in January because they believe the notice was issued on January 26, four days after they say their application was received by the authority.
Local councillor and chairman of the Middleton Tenants and Residents Group David Sims said last night: "The poor management of this case has let down local residents and also places a greater burden on the council to prevent this development being approved on appeal."
Mr Delaney's appeal is made on several grounds including the lack a demonstrable five year traveller land supply. Documents submitted to the council also say that he believes there will be no detriment to the surrounding appearance of the area.
It means North Northants Council will now therefore have to convince the planning inspectorate that there were valid reasons for the planning meeting delay.
The owners had originally started ground works on the rural field without planning permission and had moved seven caravans on site in January. The council applied a Stop Notice on the owners to halt further development activity after furious local residents witnessed multiple deliveries of materials and substantial damage caused by large earth working machines digging up nearly a quarter of the 10-acre field.
Subsequently the owners made a retrospective planning application for a five-pitch traveller site, with a further five touring pitches and five large utility buildings.
The application, which should have been determined by April 27, generated a significant backlash with more than 350 public objections, citing serious concerns over ecology, highways safety, flooding and sewage amongst others. The local Parish Councils of Middleton, Cottingham and Ashley also voiced their anger and dismay over the development.
Locals set up Middeton Residents' Action Group to oppose unsustainable developments around the local villages and have also recently been campaigning against two other applications at nearby Oakley Park, which is within a kilometer of Peasdale Hill Field.
RAG Chair David Sims added: “The Peasdale Hill site is wholly unsuitable for any kind of development and the local community have shown their feelings in the many objections made to the council.
"The site owners clearly thought that compliance was secondary to their own plans and the council have rightly unanimously rejected the application. Unapproved developments in our local villages are increasing and in the future the council will need to work harder to resolve these issues.”
“I am, however, very disappointed that the council’s planning department failed in their duty to determine the Peasdale application within the usual eight-week period.
"They failed to agree an extension of time with the applicant, which has left the council in a difficult position regarding this controversial, high profile development.
"The hard work starts now, with appeals already in place and potentially more in the pipeline and we will be pressing the council to do its upmost to defend our rural communities.
“RAG will also continue to work with the Parish Councils and neighbouring villages to bring pressure to bear on the new North Northants Council to resolve the key underlying issue of the lack of provision for traveller sites in the area and to ensure timely enforcement action is taken against unauthorised development, planning infringements and breaches.”
The RAG intends to continue its campaign and has now set up a fund to provide the specialist advice and support the group may need as the applications progress through the planning appeal processes. More details are available from [email protected]