Chorley Traveler family given three more years at Greenbelt site as permanent home promise fails

A traveling family from Chorley have been told they can stay for another three years at the Greenbelt site where they currently live, as the council’s pledge to build permanent land in the borough has still not been kept. .

Over 12 years ago the Linfoot family settled on land they own near Hut Lane in Heath Charnock. They were first subject to enforcement proceedings because permission had not been granted for development.

However, since 2013, Chorley’s council has told them on three occasions that they can stay put for a temporary period – pending the development by authorities of a site reserved for gypsies and travelers at Cowling Farm, in the east of the district.

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After the last opportunity, in 2018, family member Mike Linfoot claimed that the three-year clearance granted at the time would not be long enough to deliver to the proposed facility.

At a Chorley council planning committee meeting just before Christmas, he said his prediction had come true – and there was “still not a shovel in the ground”.

Applying for permanent permission to remain on the Hut Lane lot, Mr Linfoot said council had approved developments on other Greenbelt lands and it was “very discriminatory” not to do it in his case. Town planners again recommended that only temporary permission be granted for the land to remain in use as a travel site for another three years and three months.

“It becomes a human rights issue,” Linfoot added.

The meeting heard that the board now aims to begin work on the Cowling Farm site in about 18 months, with the latter ready for occupancy from January 2025.

However, Mr Linfoot said the committee should take into consideration what it claimed was the £ 1.5million cost for the council to keep its promise – and the ongoing expenses of maintaining a site owned by the council.

The request to make a Hut Lane a permanent travel site – with two mobile homes, five trailers and a utility block for the Linfoots and their extended family – had drawn support from 62 households and objections from 20 others.

One of the latter, Paul Sedgwick – who said he spoke on behalf of “the vast majority of residents immediately around the application site” – said the situation had lasted “far too long, to everyone’s frustration. the people concerned”.

He asked that any other temporary authorization be limited to two years in order to “give a boost” to the council to realize the development of Cowling Farm.

“The sedentary community – and I’m sure the traveling community too – needs the certainty that the new site will be available as quickly as possible,” said Mr Sedgwick, adding that the terms of use of the Hut Lane land should be subject to “regular random checks” by the board.

Chorley South East and Heath Charnock City Councilor Samir Khan said residents had previously reported that “several conditions were ignored by the applicant” – including the use of the site for commercial purposes, with ” large trucks’ making deliveries.

He also said that community integration by the family “with the vast majority of local residents is very low”.

However, Mr Linfoot dismissed claims of commercial use as “manufacturing” and said the only people he failed to fit in with were those who “don’t want to fit in with anyone – not to mention a temporary G&T. [gypsy and traveller] site”.

As part of the permanent residence application, Mr Linfoot had also asked for a relaxation of a condition prohibiting commercial activity to allow the storage of materials – but town planners had recommended that this be denied.

Speaking on behalf of the family, their next door neighbor Jason Smalley said that when the views of the “wider community” were taken into account – rather than those of residents of the Olde Stoneheath Court housing estate in the immediate neighborhood – the majority supported Linfoot’s offer to stay put for good.

After a brief debate, the committee concluded that the continuing delay for the Cowling Farm site left it with no choice but to approve a fourth temporary authorization for a period of 39 months – on the grounds that the lack of a Another location for the Linfoot was in the “very special circumstances” necessary to justify the development of the green belt.

However, committee member Martin Boardman tried unsuccessfully to reduce the delay to two years, as some residents had requested.

He said the board “must carefully consider itself and set serious deadlines” for the delivery of the promised site to Cowling Farm.

In a private session of a plenary council meeting in January 2021, Chorley’s council decided to submit a planning request for the travelers site, as well as a funding request to Homes England to help make it happen. .

Homes England – the government housing delivery agency – owns the southern part of Cowling Farm and plans to develop it for housing, with the northern part remaining under the control of the council for the purposes of traveler accommodation and proposed uses for employment.

A public consultation on the development of the entire site was carried out at the end of 2018, but little has been announced since on the future of the plot.

However, in November 2019, it emerged that plans for Chorley Council and Homes England to apply for joint planning for their respective projects collapsed after the government agency indicated it intended to do so. rider alone – and also refused to give access to the site of the traveler of his subdivision. At the time, the head of the council, Alistair Bradley, said he was “personally frustrated” by the situation, which a cabinet meeting said would push the price of the traveler site to between 920,000 and 1.03. million pounds sterling.

Also in 2019, a report assessing the needs of the gypsy and homeless community of central Lancashire concluded that 10 new locations for detached houses were needed in Chorley, including nine for current or ’emerging’ households currently living in Hut Lane.

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