Row over traveller site rumbles on in Heath Charnock

Planners are deliberating over controversial proposals for green belt land in Heath Charnock to be used as a residential gypsy and traveller site.

Wednesday, 20th June 2018, 8:58 am
Updated Wednesday, 20th June 2018, 2:01 pm
Chorley Town Hall

A family of travellers want to secure a permanent base for themselves at land on Heath Paddock off Hut Lane.

Michael Linfoot, whose family has been based at the site since 2009, is applying to Chorley Council for permission to keep two mobile homes and increase his touring caravans at the site to five.

Officers at the borough’s authority have recommended that the plans are granted for another temporary period of three years.

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Chorley Town Hall

However bosses at Chorley Council have withdrawn the item from the agenda until later this summer while it works on plans for a proposed permanent gypsy and traveller site at Cowling Farm.

It is not clear at this stage how long the development could take to become a reality.

Meanwhile the proposals for Heath Paddock, which would allow the Linfoot family to stay where they are until the new site is realised, have proved divisive among residents in the area.

Critics argue that the green belt should be protected and they should not have been allowed to set up on the land unlawfully in the first

instance.

But supporters say the Linfoot family have a “right to a settled and secure way of life”, arguing that there is a shortage of housing and travelling sites around the country.

They also argue that the family are now a part of the community and are “good people” but are being targeted because they are travellers.

Leader of Chorley Council coun Alistair Bradley said: “The planning application was withdrawn from the agenda because we want to have more certainty over the timeline for the proposed permanent gypsy and traveller site at Cowling Farm.

“We have been working on masterplanning the Cowling Farm site, which will be a mix of housing and employment land and the gypsy and traveller site, and we are due to go out to consultation on the initial proposals shortly.

“Once that consultation takes place we’ll review the responses before putting together a planning application, which should be in the coming months.

“We expect the application for the Hut Lane site to go to committee later in the summer - it had previously been recommended for approval on a temporary basis to allow the family to stay on that site until the permanent pitches are created.”

The Linfoots and another travelling family, the Boswells, moved their 16 caravans onto the site in June 2009.

Chorley Council initially rejected their application for retrospective planning permission in August that year and issued enforcement notices. But temporary consent was eventually granted for two static caravans, three touring vans and a facilities block.

In 2015 Chorley Council acknowledged the need for space in the Local Plan for members of the gypsy and traveller community.

However negotiations between the authority and the Homes and Communities Agency over Cowling Farm site have been much more protracted than anticipated.

Planning documents state: “The delay in bringing forward the allocated permanent accommodation on the Cowling Farm site is much regretted as this would provide accommodation available to the applicant’s and his family that did not offend national or local policy by being inappropriate development in the Green Belt.”

For more see https://democracy.chorley.gov.uk/documents/s86423/Item%203a%20Report.pdf