Stationary travellers

The site causing controversy. Image from Google Earth, annotated by me.

There is a good deal of concern at the moment in Brownhills West about a planning consultation currently being undertaken by Cannock Chase District Council, regarding many aspects of local development, but in this case about future provision for Gypsy, traveller and show people sites in the Cannock Chase Council area.

The process being undertaken is consultation for formulation of the Council’s Local Plan which has to be created by law, and all local councils are undertaking consultations for various aspects of it. This process, which will take years, has previously caused concern at Shire Oak and Sandhills, when Walsall Council’s version of the document was being consulted on.

A local plan gives a framework around which future planning applications will be considered, and does not confer any development rights whatsoever, as any development at all will still need to go through normal planning procedures after that. All the plan does is create a list of sites where various developments might be suitable in years to come.

As part of the compilation process, anyone can suggest any site (whether they own it or not) for any of the categories – regardless of suitability or otherwise. However controversial the suggestion may be, by law the council preparing the plan has to consider it.

With this in mind, land north of the end of Albutts Road in an area known as Commonside which lies in the Cannock Chase District Council area has been suggested by owners Wyrley estates as  a suitable site to move an existing traveller family from elsewhere on their land.

The proposed site at Common Side is the blue hatched area on the map. Image grabbed from Cannock Chase District Council documentation.

The council have not suggested this, it is purely an opportunistic request from the owners of the site to delist it from Greenbelt so they might eventually be able to put in an application to create the site.

The site suggestion listed in the consultation document. Note the ‘no planning permission’ point. Click for a larger version. From a document published by Cannock Chase District Council.

You have an opportunity to object in the first instance by Monday, 27th March 2017 – send an email with your comments to planningpolicy@cannockchasedc.gov.uk or see this web page here for other options.

A list of frequently asked questions and other information about this process can be read in this document here (I’ve converted it from Office format to PDF for ease of use).

My opinion is that this site suggestion is unlikely to go anywahere as the end result is not increased provision for travellers, just existing capacity moved round. So strategically, it’s bollocks. The council would end up parting with money to not increase provision, just shuffle it, and the only gain would be for the landowner.

There are a number of issues with the site environmentally, too: Being next to the M6 Toll and Service Area, it will be noisy and air pollution high, a fact that’s defeated other such proposals elsewhere in the past, like this one near Barracks Lane in Brownhills rejected by Lichfield District Council a couple of years ago.

Parts of the land north of Albutts Road that lie in Walsall Borough have also been notified for wildlife habitat as a Site of Local Importance to Nature Conservation, and the road access is  very poor.

This is not a planning application and none has been made, contrary to circulating flyers on the matter. Any such application, if made at all, is a very, very long way off.

Scaremongering about this will not help, and will just serve to frighten people. Arm yourself with the facts, object if you want to, and follow the process.

Cannock Chase District Council are at the inviting comment stage at the moment. If you feel strongly about this suggestion, do comment. They are inviting your feedback, and it will count. 

If this site goes into the eventual allocation (several years away), a planning application *would still have to be submitted for the site* and it would be consulted on all over again. Even if it got that far, there are very good reasons I believe it would fail.

Councillor John Preece from Cannock Chase District Council said this:

The process is initially we have this consultation, Then the council will then assess the replies and submit an amended proposal which will then go to another consultation. The council will then draw up its final proposal, which will then go to a planning inspector who’ll make the final decision.

This decision will then go to cabinet and then a full council meeting for adoption.

From then that landowners are free to put a planning application in if – and it’s a big if – their land has been taken out of Greenbelt.

Petitions aren’t a useful tool to use at this stage as the council are looking for responses based on suitability to be kept in Greenbelt based against its criteria which is outlined on the website.

Take part in the process. Comment. Have your say. Remember, no Council are planning this site, it has been suggested to them – and there’s no cause for alarm yet.

Part of the problem is the lack of general understanding about Planning Frameworks in the public realm and combined with sensationalist journalism, the end result is fear.

On the matter of feedback to planning issues in general, petitions are a really, really bad idea. By all means take them, sign them but there is NO SUBSTITUTE FOR CONTACTING THE COUNCIL IN WRITING – and in your own words. Form letters are bad.

Write clearly and concisely, give valid reasoning, and try and be factual rather than emotional.

Remember that any action we take to object to something carries weight in proportion to the effort we make: if something takes seconds, like signing an online petition, it’s generally not worth much.

Don’t forget, you can mail your comments to planningpolicy@cannockchasedc.gov.uk before March 27th, 2017.

I will recap:

  • The flyer I have seen is plain wrong. There is no planning application. It’s a long way off from that.
  • The land is not the decaying park at the Wilkin end of Albutts Road, it’s at the end of opposite the farm by the toll road, beyond the track to Bettys Lane.
  • Cannock Chase DC/Cannock/Staffs are not ‘planning a traveller site’ – the suggested use has been put forward by the landowner, Wyrley Estates. By law, Cannock Chase Council has to consider it.
  • Writing to Walsall, Lichfield or Staffordshire Councils won’t do any harm but it won’t make any difference. They have no legal power to moderate the plan of another council.
  • Likewise, the odd belief in some quarters that Walsall Council would have to approve the setting up of a camp on Common Side because the only access is through Walsall is utterly specious. But neighbours would be properly consulted if any planning application was made.

I hope that helps clear some things up a bit – and do feel free to comment here or mail me on BrownhillsBob at googlemmil dot com, but feedback is better sent to Cannock Chase District Council here.

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