End of the road for controversial Gypsy site?

A long-standing planning battle over a proposed Gypsy/Traveller encampment in Hunslet Carr looks to have come to a close, with a government Planning Inspector upholding the Council’s original decision to refuse permission for the site.

On site during the appeal hearing, June 2015
On site during the appeal hearing, June 2015

As previously reported here in South Leeds Life, Mr Michael Maloney – an established member of the Leeds Gypsy community – was looking to create an encampment for himself and his family on a 150m² space that he owns, on a former allotment site just off Woodhouse Hill near Hunslet Carr Primary School.

His original application was submitted in November 2012, but rejected – after long delays – by the Council’s planning panel in September 2014. With the support of local charity Leeds Gypsy and Traveller Exchange (GATE), Mr Maloney lodged an appeal against the decision – which led to a day-long appeal hearing last month, June 2015.

But the independent Planning Inspector (appointed by central government) Bern Hellier has now issued his official report, which supports the Council’s decision to refuse planning permission – although only by a whisker. In the report, he gives ‘little weight’ to several of the Council’s reasons for refusal, such as the effect of the planned site on the local provision of green space; and likewise, he questions the significance of issues such as increased traffic, and the impact upon other local residents.

Ultimately though, the report supports the argument that noise for the residents would be considerably above legally acceptable levels, as the site is immediately next to the M621. And it also argues that whilst the need for Gypsy and Traveller residential sites in Leeds (and for Mr Maloney and his family in particular) is partly unmet, it isn’t so chronic as to require the overturning of the planning refusal.

Kenny Saunders – chair of Hunslet Carr Residents Association, who have opposed the planning proposal – told South Leeds Life:

“We’re delighted with the result. We – the residents association, and local community – have come together and worked very hard to save this green space, which was always an unsatisfactory location for a travellers site. We’ve waited a long time for this decision – but I do think it’s a fair one. I’d like to thank everyone that has supported us during this time, and encourage people to stay in touch and help us develop all the positive projects we have planned for the local area.”

But Helen Jones, CEO of Leeds GATE, commented:

“Mr Maloney and colleagues at Leeds Gypsy and Traveller Exchange are naturally very disappointed. Mr Maloney has done everything he possibly can to provide a suitable home for his family, ‘by the book’, throughout this long and arduous planning process. The refusal seems arbitrary and is incredibly disheartening to any Leeds Gypsy or Traveller families seeking to provide a home for themselves. We are landing up in the situation where families perfectly capable of providing for themselves are forced to occupy socially-rented pitches.”

Barring the unlikely (and costly) event of a High Court appeal against this latest refusal, the case is now closed. Mr Maloney is, it is understood, considering making a request to exchange the land for another site, with the Council – an option mooted at the appeal hearing.

For more info on Leeds GATE, and the Gypsy and Traveller communities in Leeds, click here. For more info on the Hunslet Carr Residents Association, join one of their monthly meetings (listed here).