River Lane gypsies receive strong public support as they return with fourth planning application

Dorking and Leatherhead Advertiser

GYPSY families have launched a fourth bid for a permanent home on the Leatherhead site they have occupied for more than a decade

  • HOME APPEAL: The River Lane site REDB20101230B-001_C

The application to Mole Valley District Council, which was submitted on April 18, includes plans for the stationing of four travellers’ pitches, four day rooms and stables as well as provision for returning some land to grazing.

The families’ residence on the River Lane site, situated in the green belt, has been controversial but the current planning application showing a wave of community support for their right to remain on land they have owned since 2003.

Currently the application includes 26 letters of representation from members of the public with 25 of them, as well as a 516-name petition, supporting the gypsies’ case and pointing to their long untroubled residence as reason for approval.

In her letter, Jenny Moore, manager of B@titude in Leatherhead, said: “Over the last 13 years there has been no trouble from these families, the site remains so well kept and tidy and they have made and continue to make many friends within our community. There can be no valid reason not to grant permission.”

In her letter, Gail Partridge, a Bookham resident, said: “They have become part of the community, working in the area, paying their council taxes, and enhancing the property and the area around it.

“Their children also attend the local schools.”

Other supporters of the River Lane families have pointed to the fact that Mole Valley is required to find an additional 42 traveller sites by 2027 and that other developments in the green belt have been permitted while this one is continually refused.

Letherhead resident David Banko said in his letter: “It is my understanding that councils are required by law to find suitable locations within their district for gypsy caravans.

“To date, ten years after the first planning application, Mole Valley District Council has failed to grant planning permission on the land legally purchased by the gypsy community or fulfilled the legal obligation to find a suitable location.”

While Caroline Gasson, a Leatherhead resident, said: “I understand that this land is stated as being green belt and therefore comes under protection.

“However I am baffled that a much larger three-hectare plot of land only a short distance from the site is in the process of being developed.

“This does not alter the fact that permission for changing the use of this green belt land has been given and far outweighs the current impact of the families living on River Lane.”

As well as the three previous planning applications, the families have attended six development control meetings and three public inquiries to remain on the site, all of which ended in defeat.

Not every resident is supporting the gypsy’s campaign, with Cobham resident Tony Page registering his “strong objection” to the plans, saying no dwellings should be permitted on this sort of land.

The publicity date for the application ends on April 22 and full details of the plans can be found on the Mole Valley planning website using reference MO/2016/0627.

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