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Planning minister Robert Jones today welcomed the announcement by the European Court of Human Rights in a case brou...
Planning minister Robert Jones today welcomed the announcement by the European Court of Human Rights in a case brought by June Buckley against the UK government.

The case followed refusal of planning permission to Mrs Buckley to use her land as a gypsy caravan site. Mrs Buckley claimed that this constituted a violation of her rights under Article 8.1 of the European Convention on Human Rights to her private life, family and home.

Mr Jones said: 'The court has recognised the common sense of the UK position. Whilst we will of course consider the terms of the judgment carefully, we see no need for changes to UK practice on planning and enforcement.'

Mrs Buckley has lived on her own land without planning permission in Willingham, South Cambridgeshire, since 1988. Permission was refused on the grounds that the use of the land detracted from the rural and open quality of the landscape, and on highway grounds.

The local planning authority, South Cambridgeshire DC, commenced enforcement action against Mrs Buckley against which she appealed, unsuccessfully, to the secretary of state. She has been prosecuted for failure to comply with the enforcement notice.

Following a further unsuccessful appeal in 1995 to the secretary of state against refusal of planning permission by the local authority, Mrs Buckley appealed to the High Court Her appeal was dismissed, and she has now appealed to the court of appeal. A hearing date has yet to be fixed and the case remains sub judice.

Mrs Buckley considers the nearby local authority gypsy site to be unsuitable for her and her children. The district council, who manage the site, disagree.

In February 1992 Mrs Buckley complained to the European Commission of Human Rights that refusal of planning permission constituted a violation of her rights under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights: Article 8.1 of the Convention states that: Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.

Article 8.2 states that: There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety, or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

The UK government contended that Mrs Buckley was not a victim of any violation of Article 8, as alternative authorised sites in South Cambridgeshire were available to her. The commission rejected this by a majority of 7 votes to 5. The commission said that their finding in this case was based on individual merits and was not tantamount to rendering gypsies immune from legitimate planning controls.

The commission announced in March 1995 that it was referring its findings to the European Court of Human Rights. The UK Government also asked for the case to be referred to the court, and a hearing was held on Monday 19 February 1996.

The UK government contends that the court should not substitute its own planning judgment for that of the national authorities in a context where each case depends on its own facts, as established in the course of a quasi-judicial procedure the fairness of which has not been challenged, and when there is a right of appeal to the High Court, which has been exercised.

This case does not involve the use of local authority eviction powers in sections 77 to 79 of the criminal justice and public order act 1994, which cannot be used against Mrs buckley on her own land.

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