The great caravan debacle

 Posted by at 09:43 on 4 February 2015
Feb 042015
 

Now that you have a basic idea about planning applications (and I have something to point people at later; handy, that), I can tell you what I really wanted to tell you about when I started typing that recent entry.

Because I live where I live, we have some overlapping entities dealing with planning applications that could affect us, so I check them all. They, of course, have jurisdictions that include far more than just my little local area, so I mostly skim past them, learning some of the more interesting place names as I go. Such would’ve been the case with this application had we not locally had such an uproar over a caravan site that made me wonder just what sort of caravan site was being proposed, and curious if the traveller caravan site proposed for Glossop had been relocated elsewhere in the National Park.

Turns out no, it’s got nothing to do with that traveller site. This application has a long, rich history all its very own. An absolutely crazy history. The deputy chair of the community action group Peak Park Watch has very helpfully outlined it in full in his first letter of objection. That really is worth a read in its entirety (it’s only four pages), but I’ll just put the first point he raises here to start with:

This application is not as described by the Chair of planning Paul Ancell “a normal application, which will be dealt with as such.” This application is an ill considered attempt by an Authority to cover up its own past serial lack of due diligences, and then a further attempt to inflict the consequences of these actions on the community by way of mitigation of these maladministrations. This application at best should never have materialised at all, at worst it should have been called in and dealt with independently. This application by any stretch of the imagination cannot be described as a “normal application”, by any informed responsible person.

I’m still learning my way around such things, but I believe that in England, them’s fightin’ words. Most things seem to be said in much more wooly language. Mind, as you’ll see, he has very good reasons for throwing down the gauntlet this way, but it is a very shocking opening paragraph.

But have a look at the history of this piece of land, and then tell me if you can disagree with Mr Hardwick’s language and tone – I can’t. First it was part of a farm. The farm’s been broken up, and sold off in pieces. The plot of land in question actually remains open agricultural (grazing) fields, surrounded by more of the same. Not for want of trying…

I can’t get all the documents – some of this is too old – but reading from what I can find, in 1998, planning permission was granted by the Peak District National Park Authority for a caravan site on this field. Except the planner accidentally left out the word “touring” from the notice granting permission, thereby leaving open the possibility of static caravans.

At this point, the non-British among us need to go figure out what the difference is between these. I believe Glossop Caravans is the largest retailer of caravans in the country, so let’s go have a look at their website:

GlossopCaravans

Aha. Caravans seem to be the pull-behind trailers; motorhomes seem to be RVs; static caravans seem to be the mobile homes or manufactured homes that stay put. I’m reliably told that static caravans come in quite a range of levels, from basic to luxurious, from small to quite sizeable (though always single-wide, and indeed all the ones listed on Glossop Caravans right now are 10 to 12 feet wide), and as such inherently suffer no connotation issues of “trailer trash” or the like. Indeed, I’m told it’s quite common to mix mobile homes (static caravans) into sites catering for people with RVs, etc, for people to rent while on vacation – or even to have sites exclusively made of the mobile homes (static caravans) for vacation goers (holiday makers).

Well then, I don’t pretend to understand why the Peak District National Park is so opposed to static caravans being in the mix of this particular caravan park, but boy howdy, are they ever. Seems the developer that bought this piece of land with that permission already attached to it took them to court over it, and for some reason (I can’t find it), the High Court struck down whatever ruling was made, so the developer appealed to the Planning Inspectorate. Whenever a planning decision is made that the landowner doesn’t like, they can appeal to the appropriate federal government body, which is the Planning Inspectorate.

I found the case summary and the Inspector’s Decision, cluing us all in that the Peak District National Park’s argument was that in a separate explanatory note (specifically, in paragraph 3, subparagraphs a and b), reference was made to touring caravans, and that this separate, non-letterheaded sheet of paper which wasn’t referred to in the planning decision, was in fact part of the planning decision. For some strange reason, the inspector didn’t buy this. Since this is England, where we suffer from common law, his decision had the power to set precedent and affect planning law all over the country. He was thankfully aware of that and cautious about his actions:

In particular, it would mean that nobody could rely on the description of the proposed development given on either the application form or the planning decision notice, even if no other document was referred to at all, because there might just be another document submitted with the application that contained a different description.

A further point is that a document such as the explanatory note may contain nothing that identifies it as an important document. For example, as in this case, it might not be on letter-headed paper. Although in this case it is a typewritten document on good paper, in another case, it might just as easily be a hand-written note on the proverbial back of a cigarette packet. I think it is inconceivable that a planning permission and a planning application, both absolutely clear on their faces, could be overridden by some other, possibly nondescript document that happened to be sent in with the application. How would anybody looking at the planning permission decision notice know whether such a document existed or not? The only answer would be that specific reference is made to that further document either on the application form or in the permission, or both. Without such reference, it cannot be incorporated into either the application or the permission.

Quite.

The Peak District National Park decided after this to buy the land back off the developer, at a massive loss. They put out a press release about how they “saved residents from developers”, glossing over why the developer got involved in the first place. Oh, and now they have access issues – the field isn’t immediately adjacent to the road, and they are now having trouble with the landowner of the bit the connecting road should go through. This issue hasn’t been cleared up yet, Mr Hardwick tells us. Brilliant! Even if it is, the turn will be on a blind bend – this was really well thought out, we can tell.

Image from the National Trust.

Image from the National Trust.

The park waited a few years, presumably hoping for residents’ memories to fade, and filed this application for this caravan site. I think they’ve not included the static caravans, but they have included camping pods, which I had to look up. It’s a wooden hut which you’re to think of as a replacement for a tent – you’re meant to bring everything else. Only some are heated and lit. They cost as much to rent as a hotel or B&B. (We probably won’t bother with them.) Now the residents are up in arms about the pods – I can see their point that these would be better suited for wooded areas than open fields.

It would be funny if it weren’t our money they were wasting with their shenanigans – and in such amounts, too. Mr Hardwick suggests the purchase price was something like £700,000; who knows what the legal fees amounted to. He suggests putting in the infrastructure for the touring caravan site will cost another £200,000, plus whatever’s needed for the access. He cautions that the financial blight on the village could end up costing the authority another £1 million. I know better ways to spend … something like £3 million than on some piece of grass! How bout that round the world cruise, for a start…

As it is, we can only shake our heads and know that at least there are incompetent fools everywhere. It’s one thing to have made the mistake and missed out the word “touring” in the original planning permission … but why compound the error by wasting so much money on the court case and the planning appeal, and then buying the plot of land? Truly, why is it so important that static caravans not be allowed? I don’t get it.

  2 Responses to “The great caravan debacle”

  1. Howdy, here’s my guess… (Great post by the way) this is about gypsies. From what I can tell many gypsy and traveller families use statics. The fear and loathing runs deep and I expect people would resist them having access whatever the cost. ??

    • Considering the people of the Glossop facebook page started talking about getting a collection together to buy the site proposed as a Traveller/Gypsy site, you’re definitely right that fear and loathing runs deep. I didn’t know that they had any connection to statics – that’d make some sense of this, thanks. And of course, it’d be the sort of thing I wouldn’t see in all these official documents.

      (And thanks!)

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