A group of travellers occupying greenbelt land in Shurlock Row have been granted temporary planning permission to stay on the site.
The decision was made by the Planning Inspector yesterday following an appeal and is the latest twist in a long-running battle over the site near Five Oaks Farm in Shurlock Road.
The move follows a hearing in November over two appeals from the occupiers — one of which has been rejected.
The inspector, Mr V F Ammoun, stressed the importance of the greenbelt land, but said he allowed the temporary planning permission after balancing it against the personal circumstances of the appellant.
The Royal Borough said it will now review its options.
The appeal decision states: "The appeal is allowed and temporary planning permission is granted for change of use to include stationing of caravans for occupation by gypsy-traveller family with fencing, access road, hard standing, utility block and landscaping on land south of Hilarion, Five Oaks Farm, Shurlock Road, Waltham St Lawrence."
The second appeal – for a ‘change of use to a residential caravan site, for seven Romani Gypsy families, to contain seven static caravans, seven touring caravans, with associated hardstanding and parking for 14 vehicles’ – was rejected.
The decision is separate from a long-running legal battle over the council's decision to take direct action to remove the travellers from the site.
The travellers first moved on to the land in December 2009 and installed caravans, vehicles, hardstanding and machinery without planning permission.
An enforcement notice was issued by the Royal Borough, but the travellers did not comply with it by the deadline of February 2013.
Action to remove the travellers from the site was halted after an injunction was granted ahead of a judicial review application, which was refused by the High Court in January 2015.
In May, the Court of Appeal dismissed an appeal against the High Court decision, but Cllr Derek Wilson, cabinet member for planning, said direct action can still not be taken due to the ongoing legal process.
He added: “While we fully appreciate the importance of protecting vulnerable people, we are highly disappointed with this planning decision. The site was occupied without planning permission. The council will now consider its next steps.”
Cllr David Coppinger, cabinet member for adult services and health, said: “Over the years we have worked with the occupiers of the site to assess and help meet their needs and we will continue to do so.”
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