Stay of execution for Chorley travellers?

Traveller Patty Linfoot at the site on Hut Lane, Heath Charnock, Chorley
Traveller Patty Linfoot at the site on Hut Lane, Heath Charnock, Chorley
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Travellers fighting to stay on a controversial green belt site in Chorley are in line for a two-year ‘stay of execution’.

Plans are set to go before the council’s Development Control Committee tonight (Tuesday) to allow a parcel of land in Hut Lane, Heath Charnock, to be used as a temporary travellers’ site.

The u-turn comes after four years of refused planning applications, appeals and court cases in a bid to evict the Linfoot family, costing the taxpayers tens of thousands of pounds.

However, a planning inspector has now called for a new report on the needs of travellers in the area, as part of the adoption of a new local plan, and they are expected to be allowed temporary use of the site whilst it is undertaken.

Speaking ahead of the meeting, campaigning resident Dave Jones, who lives neighbouring the site, said: “As residents we remain united in our fight to return the land back to greenbelt and the removal of the travellers at the earliest opportunity.

“The fact that the travellers have already lived on the land for four years and are now being granted an extra two years is an indictment of the legal planning process.

“We will be making representations at the committee meeting and believe any use of the land should come with strict conditions.”

Even the travellers themselves admitted they were shocked at the proposal.

Michael Linfoot said: “We are not celebrating just yet as it will be down to the committee on the night.

“They can go against officer recommendations and that would mean we’d have to wait for the planned appeal in September.

“We have been calling for a new report into traveller needs in Chorley all along and we hope it will be thorough.

“It would only be temporary so we’ll continue to look for sites in Chorley to move to.”

Coun Alistair Bradley, leader of Chorley Council, said: “Once again the council finds itself in a position where we have no choice but to consider approving this temporary planning application because of a decision from the planning inspectorate, which we are powerless to overturn.

“The authority’s position has been very clear on development in this location because we feel it is wholly inappropriate for the greenbelt, regardless of the applicant’s circumstances.

“However, a planning inspector’s decision not to progress the borough’s local plan because they consider our Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Assessment (GTAA) to be out of date, despite it being valid until 2016, means we have no alternative but to consider approving a temporary permission while a new assessment is undertaken.

“It’s incredibly frustrating to have decisions yet again taken out of local hands by the planning inspectorate, and it’s something we are seeing time and again with large housing developments going ahead in Adlington, Eccleston, Whittle-le-Woods and Clayton-le-Woods, because of precedents set through decisions made by other planning inspectors, and contrary to our own and residents wishes.

“Central government seems to preach a localism agenda, yet consistently fails to support local councils and residents on the matters of greatest importance.

“Whatever the outcome of the new GTAA we strongly oppose a development of this kind in the greenbelt and if a need for a travellers’ site is identified residents can rest assured that we will continue to oppose a permanent permission for this specific site.”