Calleva Society Report on Court Hearing 19th September 2017 – regarding the Travellers application for a caravan site

In recent weeks the Calleva Society has conducted a considerable amount of work in liaising with planning consultants and solicitors as part of our attempts to prevent the development of the traveller caravan site on the land off Culhams Mill, Little London Road. We have continued to monitor the site and communicate with Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council on a monthly basis in order to better understand and contribute to both the planning process and the High Court hearing.

Currently the site is completely vacant with the exception of a few derelict caravans and an unroadworthy lorry. There have been reports of additional work being carried out and pictures have been given to the planning department which show the further expansion of the surface covering, more trees being cut down and rubbish being burnt on the site. It is our belief that these activities are further breaches of the injunction but it is ultimately up to the Judge to decide.

The review of the planning application has been slowed by the fact that the original application was incomplete and was therefore considered to be invalid by BDBC. Throughout the summer the planning team continued to correspond with the traveller community and their agent in order to obtain sufficient documentation for them to consider the application. On the 8th of August the planners announced that they had received on enough information from the applicants to publish a valid application and enter the statutory consultation period. This statutory determination date has currently been set as the 7th of November.

On the 21st August the Parish Council held its second extraordinary general meeting this year at which it decided upon the details of its objection to the planning application. The Calleva Society had previously contracted Aaron Smith of Fowler Architecture and Planning Ltd to provide advise both the Parish Council and the Society. We think he did an excellent job in conducting background research and assisting in drafting the responses from both organisations. The Parish Council objection was deliberately concise in order to provide a template that members of the community could sign up to whilst the Society’s response was detailed and extensive in outlining the multitude of reasons why this application should be rejected. Both of these have been circulated to the village and can be viewed on the Calleva Society website, BDBC planning portal or the Parish Council website.

To date the application has received 243 responses of which all but a handful of documents have been letters of objection. The remaining documents are the application papers themselves. In conversation with members of the planning team it is clear that the volume of objections has not gone unnoticed by them and they are under no illusions about the feelings of the residents of Silchester and Little London. Whilst this number of objections is an excellent response from the community, there is always room for more so please do encourage any other people to respond that may share our concerns and objective. One response that is worth mentioning is the Environment Agency who have stated that they do not object to the application. In the eyes of the Society their response misses the point and we will be writing to them to express our disappointment at their apparent lack of concern about potential pollution to the river and the land.

During the period the Society also noted that the names and addresses of the new registered owners of the land have been published on the land registry website.

A High Court hearing was set for the 19th September to be heard by Mrs Justice Philippa Whipple of the Queen’s Bench Division, High Court of Justice. It is important to note that this hearing was not to decide upon the enforcement of the injunction but was instead to hear the traveller’s application to vary the injunction to allow them residency status on the land whilst going through the planning process. The basis of this application was founded upon their assertion that they were resident on the site prior to the injunction having been served.

On the Thursday before the hearing the court and BDBC received a late submission of evidence from the traveller community which gave the Council insufficient time to respond in advance of the hearing. As such, the substance of the hearing was adjourned until a later date. Based on the number of witnesses to be called the Judge agreed that a trial would take two and half days and is now scheduled to commence on Monday 30th October until Wednesday November the 1st.

A limited hearing did, however, go ahead on the 19th. The Travellers claimed that at present there are 11 families and 17 children on the site. Their barrister asked if, on the grounds of Article 8 of the European Human Rights Act they could be allowed a water supply. The Judge agreed they could have a single standpipe. The Calleva Society will be writing to Thames Water to stress that the Judge has allowed for one standpipe and not the provision of mains water to the entire site.

Now that the land registry has published the title deeds for the area it has become apparent that the land owned by the traveller community is not just the area in the planning application but includes other areas. One victory of the day was when BDBC asked that the area covered by the injunction be increased to cover all the land owned by the travellers. The Judge agreed to this.

The Traveller’s barrister claimed the planning application had stalled because BDBC would not accept their original application. They failed to state that this was because they had not submitted all the necessary information in February that was required for a valid application and this had not been done until August. Their Barrister did admit that it was likely the application would be turned down and they would go through the appeal process.

It is clear that the tactics that will be employed by the traveller community for both the planning application and the court case are those of delay and obfuscation. The Calleva Society will continue to lobby BDBC and the courts for a speedy resolution. It should be stressed, however, that the enforcement of the injunction through the courts and the planning application are very different process and, in the eyes of the Society, the court hearings at this stage are possibly a distraction from the main objective. The potential outcome of the court hearings would be for one or more of the traveller community to be imprisoned. Although some people may argue that it is important for people to face the consequences of their illegal actions, this outcome would not serve the ultimate objective of removing the development. This will only be resolved through the planning process.

The Society will be sending representatives to the next court hearing and two of our group have offered their services to BDBC to provide evidence should it be required. If there are other members of the community that would be willing to give evidence in court then please make yourself known to us and we will pass on your details to the BDBC legal team.

Steve Spillane

Calleva Society http://www.callevasociety.org

Callevasociety@gmail.com

 

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