Council rejects traveller family plans to use a piece of land for tenth time

Plans to allow a traveller family to use a piece of land in Sandbach as a permanent pitch have been rejected for a tenth me.

The Smith family has already been living on land off Dragons Lane in Moston, but wanted retrospective planning permission for the site from Cheshire East Council.

Officers told the southern planning committee that the borough currently has 13 sites identified as gypsy-traveller pitches for the next 11 years – 19 short of the number it requires.

That would have helped the Smiths secure planning permission, but the National Grid objected to the scheme due to the pitch’s proximity to a high-pressure gas pipeline – which could cause a 400m fireball in an explosion.

Councillor John Wray, Conservative member for Brereton Rural, warned the committee that the National Grid’s objection ‘far outweighs’ the other reasons for refusal – including the proposal going against the Moston Neighbourhood Plan.

He said: “The pipeline isn’t a temporary pipeline, it is a permanent pipeline, the danger isn’t a temporary danger, it is a permanent danger.

“If something should happen it could be quite catastrophic.”

The rejection is the most recent of 10 from CEC following an eight-year planning battle over use of the land.

Ninety objections were sent to CEC against the most recent application, including one from Fiona Bruce, Conservative MP for Congleton.

Councillor Alan Holder, chairman of Moston Parish Council, told the committee it was the latest tale from a ‘war of attrition’ over a field which is ‘unsuitable’ for the pitch.

He added: “Moston already has five permanent gypsy-traveller sites that have been there for many years, so I want to assure members that the residents of Moston are not pitchfork-wielding nimbys.”

Despite the National Grid’s objection, the Smith family insisted the pitch’s distance is far enough away from the pipeline – but planning officer Daniel Evans told the committee that it would be up to the gas board to defend its position should a planning refusal be taken to appeal.

But Councillor Jill Rhodes, Labour member for Crewe North, warned that although she ‘understands the possible dangers from the pipeline’, the committee needed to consider the human rights of the family – particularly of the children.

“I think we should recognise that it is a traveller family and as such they have recognised rights which we should consider as well,” she said.

“It is a balance between the rights of the family as travellers and the dangers from the pipeline. It is a balancing act between the two.”

The committee rejected the plans by six votes to two, with three abstentions.

Councillor Wray, who is usually chairman of the committee, did not vote on the item as ward councillor for Moston.


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