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PROTECTING COUNTRYSIDE OUTWEIGHS GYPSY'S MANY NEEDS

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A gypsy who was refused permission to house her family in three mobile homes on land with a distinctive geographica...
A gypsy who was refused permission to house her family in three mobile homes on land with a distinctive geographical interest at Brent Knoll has failed in a High Court challenge to the decision.

The land in question is owned by the gypsy, Lorraine Jones, and is in the countryside near the Knoll which has an ancient monument on its summit. The Knoll is protected under local planning policy.

However, Jones claimed a government planning inspector who considered her application failed to 'club together' her 16-year old son's special educational needs, her mother's health concerns, and the lack of availability of other gypsy sites, and weigh them in the balance against the harm to the countryside posed by the proposed development.

Now though Mr Justice Harrison has dismissed Jones's challenge. He held that all the relevant matters had been taken into consideration in rejecting Jones's application.

The inspector, who rejected Jones's appeal against Sedgemoor DC's refusal of planning permission for the development on the land she owns at Brent Knoll, found that it would diminish the rural character of the area, and would be harmful and damaging to the appearance, character and visual qualities of the countryside.

He found, in July this year, that Jones' special circumstances were not of sufficient weight to outweigh this harm.

However, she had asked the High Court to quash that decision, arguing that the inspector considered her special circumstances, including her desire for her son to be near a school in Bridgwater, individually rather than together.

Her counsel, Stephen Cottle, had argued in court that while in isolation matters such as education, health, the need for further sites, the interference with the applicant's ability to pursue a way of life may not be sufficient to break away from planning policies, together they might provide sufficient material for such a break.

'Nowhere does the inspector club together the matters relied on by the applicant to see if they justify a departure from the development plan,' said Mr Cottle.

But, dismissing the challenge, Mr Justice Harrison said the planning inspector had taken the view that the grounds put forward by Jones for siting the caravans on the land did not outweigh the need for protecting the Knoll.

Looking at the inspector's stance the judge said he was satisfied the planning inspector had not been incorrect in his approach to the matter. He considered he had taken the relevant matters into consideration. This included the general state of provision of gipsy sites in the area.

He said the weight given to such considerations was a matter for the inspector's judgment and the court did not consider his decision was one which the court should interfere with.

STRAND NEWS SERVICE

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