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GREEN TENT DWELLERS CLAIM PLANNERS MISSED 'HUMAN FACTOR'

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Case no: CO/1349/96 ...
Case no: CO/1349/96

A band of Somerset tent-dwellers living an 'experimental' and environmentally friendly lifestyle on their campsite near Glastonbury have launched a last ditch high court bid for the right to stay where they are.

Members of the Kings Hill Collective, who pride themselves on their 'environmentally aware community' at Cockmill Lane, East Pennard, have been ordered to move on by Mendip DC. That decision was upheld by environment secretary John Gummer in March this year.

Now the collective, made up of 20 adults and seven children, are appealing the decision claiming planning officials failed to take full account of the 'human factor' when considering their case.

The case is being fought in the high court by three members of the collective - Lisa Britton, Brian Monger, and Alan Danskin.

The four-acre site was bought for £12,000 by the collective three years ago; most of the inhabitants live in large nomad-style tents known as 'benders' consisting of tarpaulin sheets stretched over a framework of saplings.

Lawyers for the collective say its members want to be self- supporting. They claim no housing benefit, have no mains services and draw their own spring water.

Mendip DC refused planning permission for the site, and also issued an enforcement notice in February last year requiring those on the land to move on.

The collective appealed to the secretary of state, but in March this year the appeal was dismissed on the recommendation of a planning inspector.

The inspector ruled after a public inquiry that despite the experimental nature of the project and its laudable objective of 'sustainability', that did not outweigh planning policies against development in the open countryside.

But the collective's counsel, Murray Hunt, yesterday attacked the secretary of state's decision conclusion that the case's 'human factor' had been adequately taken into account by the inspector.

He said there was no evidence to support the inspector's finding that 'that personal circumstances had been taken into account by the district council'.

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