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Gypsy Mum with ‘Aversion to Bricks and Mortar’ Triumphs

In a case which gives valuable guidance on the correct balance to be struck between the protection of rural England and the rights of the individual, a gypsy mother who has an ‘aversion to bricks and mortar’ has succeeded in staving off eviction from a Green Belt site.

The woman, a Romany gypsy with three young children, had a powerful dislike of sleeping under an ordinary roof. The family had for 12 years opted to spend their nights in a caravan outside their rented home rather than sleep in conventional bedrooms that were available to them.

After being required to shift her caravan from that property’s driveway, the mother had moved the vehicle to a Green Belt site outside London which she had owned for some years. However, the local authority refused planning permission for residential use of the site and took action to enforce the caravan’s removal.

That decision was later upheld by a planning inspector who said that the caravan was clearly an inappropriate development that threatened ‘considerable harm’ to the openness and visual amenity of the Green Belt. However, the High Court later intervened and directed a reconsideration of the possibility that a grant of temporary planning permission might be appropriate.

In dismissing a challenge to that decision brought on behalf of the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, the Court of Appeal noted the absence of any suitable alternative gypsy sites in the area and attached considerable weight to the mother’s health problems and the educational needs of her children.

Observing that there was a real threat that, if evicted, the family would be forced into a roadside existence, the court emphasised the right to respect for family life enshrined in Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The Court found that the inspector’s decision had not reasonably reflected all the factors in favour of the family being allowed to remain temporarily on the site.