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Gypsy Caravans Are ‘A Species of Housing’ Court Rules

Councils which fail to make sufficient provision for future residential development will find themselves in a weak position when opposing gypsy encampments in their areas after the High Court ruled that caravans and mobile homes are to be treated as ‘a species of housing’ for planning purposes.

A gypsy family moved onto a Green Belt site without authority and a council’s refusal to grant retrospective planning consent was subsequently upheld by a planning inspector. He ruled that the unsympathetic appearance of the family’s mobile home would be at odds with the rural surroundings.

In successfully challenging that decision, however, the family’s lawyers pointed out that the council could not show that it had a five-year supply of deliverable housing land. The Court accepted that, when considering housing needs and planning for future housing requirements, the concept of ‘housing’ was not restricted to bricks and mortar but also embraced mobile accommodation used by travellers.

In quashing the inspector’s decision and directing a reconsideration of the family’s case, the Court also found that he had wrongly reversed the correct legal test when considering whether the benefits of the development in meeting the family’s housing needs were outweighed by harm to the surrounding area.