High Court dismisses Doncaster MBC’s challenge to a Gypsy site in the Green Belt

Wednesday 21 December 2016

The High Court has recently handed down a judgment on a Gypsy and Traveller case in Doncaster. Not only is this a good victory for those involved, it is also very useful for other Gypsies and Travellers seeking planning permission on Green Belt sites. The solicitor for AB was Parminder Sanghera of CLP and counsel were Marc Willers QC and Justine Compton of Garden Court Chambers.

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The case concerned a Romany Gypsy known for anonymity reasons as “AB”. AB was granted planning permission for a Gypsy site in the Doncaster Green Belt by a Planning Inspector. She had previously had two temporary permissions for the same site. The local authority challenged the decision in the High Court.

Amongst other matters, they argued that the changes to the Green Belt policy in ‘Planning Policy for Traveller sites’ in August 2015 had raised the bar significantly higher and that, as such, planning permission should not have been granted. The challenge was defended both by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and by AB. The judge, Gilbart J rejected all grounds of challenge. He concluded:

In my judgment, this is a Decision Letter over which an experienced Inspector has taken a great deal of care to address all relevant issues in a fair and balanced manner. The views he reached on the merits were plainly ones he was entitled to reach, both within the bounds of the law and of the [National Planning Policy Framework] and the [Planning policy for travellers]. Neither are designed, written or intended to prevent the grant of permission in proper cases for such developments in the Green Belt, and it does nothing to water down the strength of national policy. This case involved the combination of a development whose adverse effects on openness was limited, a very strong case of personal circumstances, and an admitted need for pitches, where the supply was uncertain, in the view of successive Inspectors (para 88).

This is an important clarification by the courts of the correct approach to Gypsy and Traveller Green Belt cases. Some local planning authorities have taken too strict an approach to the determination of Gypsy and Traveller cases since the August 2015 changes to PPTS. This judgment has already been used by those representing Gypsies and Travellers to demonstrate to local planning authorities and Planning Inspectors that it is still entirely possible to grant permission for Gypsy and Traveller sites in the Green Belt.

Counsel for the SSCLG was Mr Kimblin QC. The solicitor for AB was Parminder Sanghera of CLP and counsel were Marc Willers QC and Justine Compton of Garden Court Chambers.

This article was originally published by The Travellers' Times. It was written by Marc Willers QC, Dr Simon Ruston and Chris Johnson.

Marc Willers QC and Justine Compton are members of the Garden Court Chambers Romani Gypsy and Traveller Rights Team.

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