Council backs down on travellers site appeal

The woodland, off Rougham Hill
The woodland, off Rougham Hill
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A group of travellers have moved closer in their bid for a permanent home in Bury St Edmunds after the council voted not to pursue its appeal against a new Gypsy and traveller site.

St Edmundsbury Borough Council’s Development Control Committee met this morning to discuss the appeal after refusing planning permission in February for a five-pitch site on woodland off Rougham Hill.

The Delaney family appealed the decision arguing St Edmundsbury Borough Council’s reasons for refusal - that the application could not be decided before a masterplan for the area was approved and that there would be a significant loss of oak trees in the area - no longer applied.

They said the grounds for refusal had been superseded as the masterplan was adopted by full council in September this year and this included substantial plans for planting and landscaping.

Although the council’s Development Control Committee was told it had three options -to no longer pursue the defence of the appeal, to defend it on one of the grounds or to defend it on both grounds - it was recommended to not pursue it.

The matter will next go to the Planning Inspectorate.

Following the meeting, John Corrie, who lives nearby, said he was dismayed the public had been ‘gagged’ and not allowed to speak at the meeting.

He said: “From our point of view, it was very unsatisfactory and undemocratic that much mention was made of public concern but every effort was made to suppress it.

“We will be writing to the Planning Inspectorate to reaffirm our wish that the appeal is subject to a public hearing.”

Councillor Sarah Stamp described the committee meeting as ‘undemocratic’.

She said: “There was quite a lot of talk at the meeting with lots of members saying the public should have their say and that this process acknowledges it is an issue people cared about so preventing me as an elected representative and members of the public from speaking was undemocratic and shouldn’t have happened.

“I remain absolutely committed to my original thoughts that this is an area of community woodland gifted to the people of Suffolk so therefore the public should have their say in how it is used.”

Cllr Stamp also said it was disappointing that the costs of fighting the appeal were referred to so many times in the meeting.

“I don’t think that should be a deciding factor,” she said.

A council spokesman said: “The Development Control Committee speaking rules agreed by councillors are clear that providing that they give sufficient notice members of the public can speak on planning applications.

“However these rules are also clear that when it comes to legal or enforcement matters such as planning appeals, only members of the committee itself may speak.

“Today’s decision related directly to a legal matter based on officers advice.”