PLANS have been drawn up to expand a gipsy caravan site on the Blackdown Hills above Wellington.
Clayton Foster wants to add 14 caravan pitches and four ‘amenity buildings’ to a plot of land next to Yalham Farm, Otterford Road, Otterford, which houses an existing gipsy site.
The site is close the Holman Clavel public house, between Churchinford and Blagdon Hill.
Mr Foster wants the site to house seven gipsy families who would each use one touring caravan and one static caravan or mobile home, making 14 pitches in total.
Planning agent Philip Brown, of Rugby, Warwickshire, said the plot of land was given temporary permission for 12 gipsy pitches almost 30 years ago on condition it was restored to its original condition afterwards.
However, Mr Brown said it was never restored and because the local authority had not taken any action for more than 10years to enforce the condition it meant its use was now lawful.
Mr Brown said: “Use of the land has never reverted back to agricultural and there have been no subsequent planning permissions granted for use of the land for any alternative purpose.
“On the contrary, planning permission was granted on November 15, 2005, for use of part of the application site for the stationing of six gipsy caravans utilising the existing access and driveway.”
Mr Brown said again there had been a condition requiring the site to be restored to its former condition on or before September 30, 2008.
But again the site had never been restored and as before, the fact the council had not taken any enforcement action for more than 10 years meant the use was lawful by default.
Mr Brown said even if it was not accepted that the previous gipsy caravan site planning applications were extant, ‘any operational development carried out in association with the use of the land as a caravan site is clearly lawful’.
He said the current Taunton Deane planning policy document which was in use by Somerset Council did not have an up to date strategy as required by law for meeting gipsy and traveller accommodation needs.
Mr Brown said the latest available estimate showed 38 permanent pitches would be needed between 2021 and 2030 but so far none had been provided, which meant the Otterford application met planning policy requirements.
He said the site was well-related to local services and facilities such as a school, doctor’s surgery, and employment opportunities, it was well screened with minimal impact on the environment, was already served by appropriate infrastructure, and would not cause an unacceptable number of traffic movements.
Somerset Council is asking for public comments on the application to be received by December 22, and has set itself a target date to make a decision on it by January 22, 2024.
• The Otterford application comes less than two months since a controversial application was made for eight touring and static gipsy caravans alongside the A38 near Bradford on Tone.
Somerset Cllr John Hunt, who represents the area, has lodged an objection to the A38 site on behalf of 38 local residents who met to discuss concerns and voted unanimously against the plans.
Cllr Hunt said the access was near a bend on a dangerous stretch of already-busy road which would cause a number of safety concerns, and there were also worries about disturbance by noise and light pollution.
Bradford on Tone parish councillors also objected to the application on the grounds of road safety and pointed to previous applications for a local public house and a chicken farm which were refused because of highways concerns.
However, neighbouring Bishops Hull Parish Council decided it did not want to submit any comments on the application.
Somerset Council had set itself a target of approving or refusing the application by November 27 but as of this week had still not done so.
The council’s planning policy specialist Ann Rhodes said an up to date assessment of traveller and gipsy accommodation needs was being prepared but would not be ready in time to help determine the A38 application.
Ms Rhodes said across the former Taunton Deane area only 13 pitches had been provided since 2013, leaving a shortfall of 73 for the period up to 2032, while five transit pitches were also needed but none provided.