Traveller pitch expansion plan in village near Corby knocked-back by councillors

The plan was to extend the site in Middleton

Thursday, 9th July 2020, 4:17 pm
Updated Thursday, 9th July 2020, 4:20 pm
The site from above. Copyright: Google

Pleas from villagers against the granting of permission for a traveller caravan pitch in Middleton persuaded councillors to turn down an application from a family already living on the site.

The retrospective application came after work had already begun to expand the Ashley Road site, with hedgerows being ripped out, hard-standing laid and an extra access point constructed.

Before last night’s Corby Council development control meeting, there were 54 objections including from the Environment Agency, NCC Highways and MP Tom Pursglove.

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The applicant has already done most of the work.

Thomas and Miles Doran wanted to add an extra pitch to the three-pitch site as well as an ancillary building with a kitchen and communal area and a second entrance to the site, which has now been split in half.

Two previous applications to establish the use of the site as a permanent home for travellers had been turned down Corby Council in 2009 and 2013. But the family living there appealed both decisions and won - leaving the councillors at last night’s meeting being warned by their own officers that refusing another application could result in a costly appeals process.

The meeting heard from planning officer Edward Oteng who said the authority had a need for ten additional pitches in the borough that it had not been able to supply, adding: "On balance the view of officers is that this scheme should be approved."

But last night councillors said they had to ‘take a stand’.

Chairman of the committee Cllr Julie Riley said: “We can’t keep on letting people .. threaten us by taking us to court.

”Sometimes you have to take a stand.”

The meeting heard from a string of objectors including the parish councils of Ashley, Middleton and Cottingham, a neighbouring farmer and the Cottingham and Middleton Copyholders, who hold the next door field in trust.

Copyholders chairman Mike Curtis said that pipes had been run on to their land which it believed may be discharging effluent.

Mr Curtis said: "The main prejudicial impacts on are land are that a healthy hedge was removed adjoining our boundary and replaced by a 2m high fence without permission.

"An ancient stone wall to the east of the gateway has been removed to enable their splay at the entrance to be enlarged.

"This has impacted on our entrance."

Mr Curtis added that hardcore had raised the traveller site about 1.5m above the level of their field. It had also encroached on to the Copyholders' land by about 2.5m. He said the new development had impacted on the flooding of the field, which had previously been let for grazing, and that the Copyholders were now no longer able to let it.

They said there was 'strong evidence' of a raw sewage outfall discharging on to their field.

He added: "We're now having to defend our property and spend money on a new cattle fence to prevent further encroachment."

"The mission of the Copyholders since 1612 is to support local people and projects in a constructive and beneficial way. Sadly, our current efforts and time are being spent on this unnecessary situation."

Cllr Ann Morgan of Ashley Parish Council said that local people were very concerned about two separate entrances on the dangerous bend and said there had been 'several near misses'.

Farmer James van Oppen who runs an upmarket polo and events business on the next door farm said that he considered the applicant Miles Doran to be a friend.

"This is really starting to impact on our business and our wildlife and conservation programme we run on the farm," he said.

"It's the intensification of use that I'm concerned about. The new access, in fact the first access as well, is dangerous and doesn't conform with the highways rules and I've personally nearly collided with two vehicles coming out of there."

He said they had planted nearly 3km of hedgerows on the farm and that they record all wildlife including otters, pied wagtails and bullfinches. He said there were tawny owls nesting in the ancient pasture that had become the travellers' field but that it had been stripped with a bulldozer.

He added: "This is impacting on the wildlife generally in the area which we really care for. We run a sustainable business. We've been planting trees for 50 years, I planted many as a boy and we use all those materials for fencing and building things on the farm. It's this urban design next door which worries us.

"We know they have plans to expand."

He said he'd been offered 'over double' the agricultural value for the adjoining field for a larger development of mobile homes adding: "If we're offered double and this is allowed to continue, then you join them."

Chair of Middleton Parish Council Sarah Brant said: "The sewage arrangements are appalling and they don't meet environment agency requirements.

"The two-metre high wooden fences, gates and hard landscaping give the impression the site and its occupants are isolated and cut-off.

"The application is riddled with errors and contradictions."

Councillor David Sims told his fellow members of the development control meeting that he could not support the application and that it was 'unacceptable' that the council had not found enough traveller sites to fulfil the five-year land supply requirements when it had the chance.

He said that the council was still entitled to refuse the application, adding: "I think if it went to appeal we'd have a fighting chance of winning an appeal.

"I am very disappointed in the council for putting us in this position by trying to force through to the public, by not having the five year land supply. We could have addressed this a long time ago and you chose not to. That's not right. We wouldn't have been in this position this evening if this was sorted."

Cllr Riley said that before lockdown senior councillors had been to inspect the existing traveller site, were trying to address the supply issue and and said that some of it was 'in hand'.

All councillors voted to refuse the application. The applicant can now appeal the decision.