A traveller family has been given the go-ahead to add a new caravan to their site in Chorley – to provide a pitch for a relative who has been made homeless elsewhere in Lancashire.
The Linfoot family has lived on land which they own on Hut Lane for more than decade. They have been granted several temporary permissions to remain there until a designated traveller site is developed in the borough.
The latest extension came last July, when their plot was authorised until 2021. But a bid to bring two additional vehicles onto the land was refused, because councillors found that the family had not demonstrated any need for them.
They returned to the town hall to ask instead for one extra caravan and approval for a vehicle currently used as storage to be occupied in order to assist their wider family.
In putting their case to members of Chorley Council’s development control committee, one of the site’s existing residents, Patty Linfoot, asked: “What other community has to ask permission for their family to stay with them?”
“My brother, his wife and three children have been made homeless in Lancaster. It is no longer safe for them to say on the side of the road and they have been forced to move to Hut Lane,” Ms. Linfoot said.
She added that the application represented a “very small change” to the greenbelt site, which will now house five touring caravans and two mobile homes.
Meanwhile, Jason Smalley, who said he had lived in the area for 50 years, spoke in support of the family.
“Those Hut Lane residents who drive past the entrance [to the site] won’t be affected in any way. In fact, 15 out of 17 residents now count the Linfoots as friends – or at least exchange Christmas cards with them,” Mr. Smalley said.
The council did receive written objections to the application – and although a residents’ group welcomed the reduction in additional vehicles, it requested that council officers visit the site at six-monthly intervals to ensure compliance with existing planning conditions.
No additional condition requiring monitoring visits was added and Ms. Linfoot said it would have been “discriminatory” to do so.
A long-planned official traveller site in Chorley – which would be the first in the borough – is due to be created a part of a wider development at Cowling Farm. Chorley Council estimates that it will be ready by 2021 – when the Linfoot’s temporary permission at Hut Lane runs out.
Committee member Martin Boardman said that it was “embarrassing” that the council had not delivered the site earlier.
But the authority’s planning services manager, Adele Hayes, told councillors that delays had been caused by the fact that ownership of the land was split between the council and the government agency, Homes England. She added that plans were now “well advanced”.
Speaking after the meeting, Patty Linfoot’s husband, Mike, said he was not convinced that Cowling Farm would be ready by 2021.
“We will be in the same position then – we thought five years [to complete it] was optimistic,” he said.
Mr. Linfoot added that it would be “a wrench” to leave Hut Lane when the time did come and said that the support of a neighbour at the committee showed that “not everybody is against us”.
Committee members voted unanimously in favour of approving the application, accepting that the applicant had demonstrated "very special circumstances"