WINCHESTER planners have given temporary planning permission for two families to stay at a travelling showmen’s site in the Meon Valley – despite pleas from villagers.

Several travelling families have been based at the unauthorised site near Shedfield since 1992, leaving in the summer for the fairground circuit and returning in the autumn.

Of the seven pitches on the Nurseries on Botley Road, three have had temporary planning permissions but all expired this year.

Jess Bond, of Shedfield Parish Council, said: “The continuing encroachment onto the countryside is wholly inappropriate.

“How can it be right for the city council to continue to endorse the actions of people ignoring the planning rules whilst applying the rules so vigorously to everyone else?

“The city council is not fulfilling its obligations and the people of Shedfield are paying a high price.”

The committee heard that the council is legally obliged to find pitches for gypsies, travellers and travelling showpeople. A strategy is being worked up with research into demand but the strategy is not expected to be finished until 2015.

Several years were wasted after the Coalition Government scrapped regional figures in 2010 and told local authorities to draw up their own figures, the committee was told.

Temporary permission for two plots at Shedfield were granted in 2010 but that expired in May 2012.
The planning officers were recommending that temporary permission be granted to John Whittle and Patrick Burton and their families until October 2015. That would allow time for the planning policies to be clarified.

But Cllr Therese Evans said 2015 was too long and suggested May 2014 which was supported by the committee.

Cllr Robert Johnston said: “We have no choice but to endorse this otherwise we would be infringing their (travelling showpeople’s) human rights.”

One complicating factor was the travelling showmen’s site at Micheldever which got planning permission but is not being lived in by showmen. The committee heard that the families at Shedfield had fallen out with those at Micheldever and so had never relocated there.

Neil Marsh, planning and enforcement manager, said the council was challenging a planning inspector’s decision earlier this year that blocked planners taking action to ensure the Micheldever site is only lived in by travelling showmen. A hearing is due at the High Court in January 2013.

The nearest neighbour is city councillor Roger Huxstep who emailed councillors urging them to take action.

Councillors were critical of the lack of enforcement in the past by the council. Cllr Evans said: “It is not Mr Marsh’s fault. We are where we are because of a lack of enforcement.”