On 16th November 2011 a planning inspector granted 3 families permanent planning permission for the use of land known as Woodside Caravan Park in Hatch, Bedfordshire as a small Gypsy site. In doing so he brought to finality to a planning saga that has lasted 13 years and involved three planning/enforcement notice inquiries, High Court injunction proceedings, a High Court challenge to one of the planning appeal decisions and the ruling by the Court of Appeal in Smith v First Secretary of State and Mid-Bedfordshire DC  EWCA Civ 859 which has a wider significance for Gypsy site provision. In that case, the Court of Appeal quashed an earlier inspector's decision to refuse planning permission in circumstances where he had based his decision in part upon local residents' fear that crime would increase in the area if planning permission were granted.
The Court of Appeal made it clear that 'fear' had to have a reasonable basis and the object of that fear had to be the use of the land. The local residents' fear arose from gross assumptions as the characteristics of the occupiers of the land which were unsupported by evidence. Unlike a polluting factory or a bail hostel, the Court of Appeal stated that a Gypsy caravan site was not inherently likely to cause difficulties to neighbours.
Lennie Smith, Abraham Howard and Billy Price and their families were represented by Marc Willers and South West Law solicitors throughout the planning appeal process and in the proceedings before both the High Court and Court of Appeal.
Click here to read appeal decision.