Council set to draw a line under 12 year Traveller Site battle

Councillors could draw a line under Doohill Traveller site.
Councillors could draw a line under Doohill Traveller site.

A LONG RUNNING battle between a Lhanbryde traveller family and Moray Council planners could be brought to a close when council planners meet tomorrow.

The local authority is to consider a recommendation that planning permission for the traveller site at Doohill near Lhanbryde be approved – 12 years after an initial planning bid and following two Council rejections and two Scottish Government interjections.

Members of the planning and regulatory services committee will be asked to renew planning permission for a “permanent change of use for six private pitches”, as well as formation of access, parking and erection of screen fencing on the site.

Chequered history

The chequered history of the project began in 2004 when permission was sought to erect two holiday chalets, a house and a garage on the site – a proposal rejected on the delegated authority of local ward members.

There followed an enforcement case after four chalet-type caravans and three touring caravans were placed on the site without permission. That was followed by an application for a ‘change of use’ on the site which already had six private permanent traveller pitches in place – that application was also refused in 2011.

An appeal against that decision went to the Scottish Government but was refused in July the same year.

However, following a confidential meeting of the planning committee it was decided to defer enforcement to allow submission of a new temporary planning bid. A three-year temporary planning application followed in August 2012 for a “retrospect to change of use” on the site – again refused by Moray’s planning committee.

Again the decision went to appeal to the Scottish Government – and this time the Reporter upheld the appeal, saying the decision “was influenced by the absence of a specific local plan policy aiding assessment of this particular development and the failure of the Council to identify halting sites in Moray, which would disadvantage the appellants to continuing their way of life”.

New Bid

With the three year temporary permission about to end, the new application being considered on Tuesday is being recommended for acceptance by officials, subject to a series of minor amendments to the proposals.

In his summary of the recommendation, report author Neal MacPherson, the Principal Planning Officer, says: “Since the Appeal decision in 2013 was issued, material circumstances have changed in relation to the adoption of the Moray Local Development Plan 2015 which contains a specific policy H11 covering temporary and permanent private sector Gypsy/Traveller sites.

“With the passage of time the site has become more established and landscaping along the northern and western boundaries further mitigating the visual impact of the site.
“Other than its proximity to Lhanbryde settlement boundary being less than 1km, it is considered to comply with all other aspects of relevant policy as discussed above.

“The extent to which the development departs for this one aspect of policy is outweighed by the other material considerations identified above where, in summary, the site no longer compromises the objectives/aims of the CAT policy, the proposal addresses a shortfall in provision of Gypsy/Travellers sites and there are no alternative halting or permanent sites that the applicants could revert to should permission be refused.

“It is also noted that no representations were received in relation to the planning application.”

The report concludes that the proposal constituted an acceptable departure from the Moray Council Local Development Plan 2015 “whereby the material considerations of the site location and characteristics are acceptable and the proposal fulfils the accommodation needs of the Gypsy/Traveller applicants where no alternative halting or permanent sites exist within Moray.”