ANGRY villagers say the local authority is to blame after planning permission was granted for a gipsy site despite strong local opposition.

Officers from the Planning Inspectorate Wales overturned Flintshire Council’s decision to refuse permission for the site on land off Gwern Lane, Caer Estyn, Hope.

One resident, who did not want to be named, said: “The blame lies firmly with Flintshire Council and not the travellers.

“It is due to a lack of provision of sites in the county and a lack of enforcement in dealing with sites set up without permission.”

But a spokesman for the council said: “We have sought and received legal advice regarding the site and we will be seeking clarity from the Planning Inspectorate with regard to its recent decision.”

The application for four caravans, a hard standing area, a day room and a septic tank was originally submitted in August 2010 by the Purcell family, which owns the land.

Residents, councillors and Alyn and Deeside MP Mark Tami opposed the plans and Flintshire Council received more than 120 letters of objection.

The council’s planning committee rejected the application last October on the grounds it would have a negative impact on the area’s character.

Planning officers also said there was insufficient evidence a travellers’ site was needed and issued an enforcement notice, ordering the family to leave the site and return the land to its previous condition.

But the family launched an appeal against the decision to the Welsh Assembly.
This was upheld and permission granted for a change of use of land to a gipsy caravan site subject to conditions.

The planning inspector said the number of unauthorised gipsy camps illustrated there was a need for further sites.

He also said Flintshire Council was unable to identify any alternative sites within the county.

Speaking on behalf of the family, Philip Purcell, said: “I’m grateful for the decision. I just want what’s best for my children and a home for my family.

“We have no intention of doing anything to jeopardise the situation.”

But Tim Newhouse, Hope county councillor, said: “The Planning Inspectorate criticised Flintshire over the lack of adequate traveller sites throughout the county, but it is the people of Hope who have been punished for that.

“It wouldn’t surprise me if affected residents considered suing the council.”

And county councillor Peter Pemberton, who lives in Hope, said it was not right that one section of the community was treated differently from others.

He said: “I’m not very happy. If everybody decided to flout planning regulations then it would be absolute mayhem.

“The Planning Inspectorate said a similar site in Queensferry was full but I don’t believe that is the case.

“Can the local authority be expected to set up more and more sites just because certain people don’t get on with one another?”

Mark Tami MP said he was amazed by the decision to grant permission for the site.
“I have been contacted by concerned residents and have written to Flintshire Council to ask what avenues of appeal it has,” he said.

One local resident said: “I think it’s a bad thing and it shouldn’t have happened.”
But another said: “I’m not worried about the impact on the village as they generally only stay for a couple of years.”