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LATEST: Traveller site plans 'not handled consistently' in Maidstone

Thursday 25th February 2021

A PLANNING application for a gypsy site in Staplehurst turned into a debate about Maidstone Borough Council’s ‘lack of consistency’ in policies.

Councillors argued the authority fails to enforce its own rules surrounding gypsy caravan parks.

The discussion was prompted by an application to change the use of land at The Three Sons in Park Wood Lane.

Local borough and parish councillor John Perry, pictured, said pitch targets had already been more than met.

He told the MBC planning committee: “We have supposedly clear policies and yet they do not seem to count for anything.

“It just gets overridden and we see this time and time again in this area.

“We are paying a very bad price for it.”

“Words fail me how these keep slipping trough. We turned a site which was an open site into a gypsy and traveller site. I accept we need pitches but we have more than met our pitch target.

“We are not forced to accept this. I cannot support this.”

Cllr Eddie Powell said: “It is about consistency. Gypsy traveller sites have been turned down and let’s be honest, they are very similar in their approach and style, pushing things slightly to the edge.

“All the time they are allowed to get away with it they will continue to do so.

“My issue is that we either start having a policy whereby we start granting all of them exactly the same, or you don’t do anything at all.

“But at the moment it’s very much on an ad hoc basis. One wins, one loses. I don’t think that’s fair to the traveller community and I don’t think it’s fair to the community of Staplehurst.”

Staplehurst Parish Council said it feels “very frustrated” that the policies of the local plan and Staplehurst Neighbourhood Plan could be overturned in the space of one year.

A statement read: “This does not make sense and undermines our confidence in the planning system.”

Councillors decided to approve the application for The Three Sons use of land with conditions of compliance.

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