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An English gypsy's caravan is his castle - and local councils and planning inspectors were warned in a test case ru...
An English gypsy's caravan is his castle - and local councils and planning inspectors were warned in a test case ruling that they had better not forget it.

The court of appeal backed a high court ruling in October last year in which Mr justice Burton ruled that a gypsy was entitled to site his caravan on land designated as a Special Landscape Area at Sissinghurst, near Cranbrook, Kent, and that to deny a gypsy rights to live in a caravan could breach his human rights.

Thomas Clarke, a Romany, who is living without permission in caravan at Wilsley Pond, near the junction of the A229 and A262 at Sissinghurst, with his wife and two children, won his case last year after claiming that his human rights had been breached first by Tunbridge Wells BC's refusal to grant planning permission, and then by a government inspector's decision to back the council's position.

In the high court last year Mr justice Burton ruled yesterday that if a gypsy seeking planning consent for a caravan could show that he lived a genuine gypsy lifestyle with a cultural aversion to bricks and mortar housing his views should be respected.

Gypsies should not be condemned for turning down offers of 'bricks and mortar' housing in preference to remaining caravan dwellers, said the judge.

He said that the reasonableness of a genuine gypsy refusing the offer of conventional housing could be compared to any other applicant for council housing refusing the offer of a 'rat-infested barn'.

He added that to hold a cultural objection to conventional housing against genuine gypsies in planning cases would be equivalent to discriminating against the followers of various religions who refused to work on certain days, eat certain foods or wear certain clothes.

He held that, contrary to Articles 8 & 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights, the planning inspector who sided with the council had wrongly taken into account the fact that Clarke had refused an offer by the council of conventional accommodation.

The council argued that it was wrong to place the weight the judge did on a gypsy's aversion to living in conventional housing.

However, backing the high court decision and dismissing the council's appeal Lord Justice Laws said that where human rights rights were potentially engaged closer scrutiny was needed. The court considered the high court judge was right in his decision.


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