CONDITIONS which could see Travellers living on a controversial green belt site in the Borough have been thrashed out in front of a planning inspector.
No decision has yet been made about the future of the site on Malvern Road in Little Thurrock – and an appeal against Thurrock Council’s decision to refuse permission for the development has been delayed until July.
The matter had been scheduled for a hearing at Thurrock’s Civic Offices on Tuesday but a last minute move by the Travellers has forced a delay – though a planning inspector used the scheduled time to deal with what planning conditions would be imposed if the Travellers were successful in their appeal.
The delay in holding the hearing came about because the Travellers changed their legal representatives to Cunnane Town Planning LLP – who requested Thurrock Council agree to a postponement of the inquiry to allow them more time to prepare their case.
The Council objected but the planning inspectorate still decided to adjourn proceedings until 1 July, when the three day inquiry will begin.
Tuesday’s meeting, with residents and local councillors in attendance, still took place and planning conditions were discussed with members from the Traveller family and their legal representatives Joe Cunnane and James Potts, along with Thurrock Council’s planning officers.
Conditions agreed upon at the round table talk included that the site be occupied by Gypsies and Travellers only. And that the permission would only apply to the applicant – Andrew West – and his dependants for the duration of his life, and not pass down the generations.
It was agreed by all parties that no more than five static caravans and five touring caravans would be on the site at any one time. Planning inspector Jean Russell also stipulated that no vehicle over 3.5 tonnes would be allowed to be parked or stored on site and no commercial activity will be permitted on site.
Also, if permission is granted the Travellers would be required to restore the land to back to the way it was before they settled there once they move on.
Malvern Road resident Clive Mulligon voiced concerns that if the Travellers moved on without restoring the land they might not be traceable. Planning committee member Cllr Phil Anderson assured residents that if this were to happen the Council could take action through the magistrate’s court.
It was decided that on the site refuse collection and storage areas must be outlined and hours of construction limited to 8am-6pm Monday to Friday and 8am-1pm on Saturdays.
Here Mr Mulligon asked the inspectorate to consider applying general construction rules to the site – meaning construction vehicles would have to wash their wheels on exiting the site to avoid dirtying surrounding roads. Inspector Jean Russell said it would be taken under consideration.
Little Thurrock ward councillor Rob Gledhill suggested at the hearing that reasonable notice be given to neighbours when large deliveries (for example caravans) would be delivered to the site, to avoid blocking in Malvern Road residents. Ms Russell said: “I’m not sure this can be controlled by planning.”
Mr Mulligon asked for it to be written in the plans “for common decency”, but Ms Russell remained firm saying: “These are not planning matters.”
Site resident Maria Birch said: “We have tried to communicate with the residents to avoid things like that in the past but they don’t want to hear from us.”
After the hearing, Cllr Gledhill told the Enquirer: “We feel let down that despite having six months to get everything together the evidence wasn’t ready long before today, adding further delay to proceedings.
“It is clear that this process takes far too long and I would urge that the whole process be reviewed nationally so swifter action can be taken to protect our greenbelt and the residents affected by sites such as these.”
Mr Mulligon added: “I feel that this is going very slowly, deliberate blocks seem to have been put forward more and more by the Travellers and the Council has been very slow in getting everything together.
“I’ve not really had problems with the people who live on the site, apart from when they were having electricity installed and when I asked to see paperwork that allows the electric company to dig up the public road I was given a mouthful of abuse by some of the Travellers.
“Other than that one incident I have nothing against the people who live there – any claims they make about racism or hate crimes is complete rubbish.
“In the long run I hope they are refused permission and move off because of desecration of the greenbelt land.
“This has been causing untold stress to Malvern Road residents, some of whom have serious health problems and who really don’t need this on their plate as well.”
Both Mr West and Mrs Birch declined to comment outside the meeting.