Gypsy appeal

Thursday 21 July 2005

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The case dealt with an appeal against a decision made by a planning inspector to refuse planning permission for a Gypsy site to accommodate 4 families (the appellants).

The site was located in the countryside. It had originally been part of a much larger caravan site that covered neighbouring land and had been occupied by more than 20 families. However, though the families living on the adjacent land were evicted, the appellants were allowed to remain on their land until the determination of their planning appeal.

When reaching his decision the planning inspector had taken acount of the local residents' fear of crime which had been based upon previous incidents that had occurred when the adjacent land had been occupied by other families. Those incidents could not be attributed to the appellants or the occupation of their land and the number of incidents that had been reported to the police since the eviction of those living on the adjacent land had reduced dramatically.. In its judgment the Court of Appeal noted that 'fear of crime' is capable of being a material consideration: see West Midlands Probation Committee v SSE and Walsall MBC [1997] JPL 323 - a case involving an application for planning permission to extend a bail hostel.

However, Buxton LJ said that before the local residents' fear could be taken into account as a material consideration in such a case the:

'(i) fear and concern must be real, by which I would assume to be required that the fear and concern must have some reasonable basis, though falling short of requiring the feared outcome to be proved as inevitable or highly likely; and (ii) the object of that fear and concern must be the use, in planning terms, of the land.' Buxton LJ added that:'it was necessary in order to take these incidents into account to attribute them not merely to the individuals concerned but also to the use of the land. But a caravan site is not like a polluting factory or bail hostel, likely of its very nature to produce difficulties for its neighbours. Granted that the evidence of recently past events attributable to the site was sparse, or on a strict view non-existent, the fear must be that the concern as to future events was or may have been based in part on the fact that the site was to be a gypsy site. It cannot be right to view land use for that purpose as inherently creating the real concern that attaches to an institution such as a bail hostel.'

For that and other reasons the Court of Appeal quashed the planning inspector's decision and remitted the appeal to the First Secretary of State for redetermination.

You can download a copy of the judgment from here.

Smith v. Sos of Mid Bedfordshire DC [2005] EWCA 859

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