From the West Briton 24/01/13

PLANNERS have approved a controversial scheme for a new Traveller site in Mount Hawke. Single mother Helen Birkett was given planning permission for three pitches, composting toilets and a utility shed on her two-acre plot near Mount Hawke Skatepark. Cornwall Council’s area planning committee also approved the continued use of two caravan sites in a neighbouring field for workers at Insite Managed Services. Miss Birkett’s proposal attracted 15 letters of objection, including from St Agnes Parish Council, citing waste and flooding concerns and the change of use from agricultural to residential. Seventeen people, including local businesses and staff at Mount Hawke School, wrote in favour of the application. Councillor Joyce Duffin, for Mount Hawke and Portreath, said while she understood people’s concerns, the Traveller site was “well located”. The planning committee was told there was a “pressing need” for Traveller/Gypsy sites in Cornwall, and this scheme would help the council reach its target for 25 pitches in the former Carrick area by 2020. Mrs Duffin said: “I know some people find it very frustrating that there is a different set of rules for Gypsy/Traveller planning applications. “However, the local authority has to go by these policies, which are set by central government. “In the past when the council has refused planning applications, they have been won at appeal because Cornwall Council doesn’t have any available sites. “It’s better to approve the application, but with agreed conditions.” The conditions restrict the number of people allowed on the site and ban commercial activities, including the storage of materials, without prior written approval. Mrs Duffin said: “I have a reasonable amount of experience regarding Gypsy/Traveller sites and policy, and I think these sites are well located. They’re on the edge of the village, tucked away but within easy walking distance of the school and shops. “The residents have been there for around 12 months and are well integrated within the village. This isn’t an unknown entity that we’re talking about.” Miss Birkett, who lives on the site with her son Rufus, 8, and two male friends who work and live in separate caravans, said: “I’m relieved. After months of uncertainty we can now settle, which is great for Rufus who’s doing really well at Mount Hawke School.” She has already planted trees at the entrance to the site and says she now wants to create an orchard and vegetable plot.

 From the West Briton

A PACKED parish council meeting has recommended refusal of an application to make a Travellers’ site permanent, citing fears that it would attract more residents. It was standing room only at the St Agnes Parish Council planning committee meeting on Monday evening. The application to create three permanent pitches for existing Traveller families and for the erection of two compost toilets and a utility shed on farmland near Mount Hawke Youth Club was recommended for refusal by the parish council on the grounds that it would cause undue pressure on local infrastructure. Most of those who attended said they opposed Cornwall Council giving permission since doing so would attract more Travellers, as had happened at sites in other parts of the country. One of the objectors, Graham Hill, said he welcomed the parish council’s recommendation but felt it had been unprepared for the dozens of people who turned out to question the planning committee and hear its members’ deliberations. “My main concern was that the council room wasn’t big enough and they hadn’t thought about relocating for such a big issue,” he said. “I understand that this has happened before, when the meeting was abandoned.” The council will now forward its recommendation to Cornwall Council, which will make the final decision. The recommendation for refusal states that Cornwall Council should “strictly limit new Traveller site developments in open countryside that is away from existing settlements or outside areas allocated in the development plan.” It also urges the unitary authority “to ensure that sites in rural areas reflect the scale of or do not dominate the nearest settlement community and avoid undue pressure on local infrastructure”.

West Briton 06/12/12 –

A SINGLE mother seeking planning permission for three caravan pitches has promised the site will not be overrun with Travellers. Helen Birkett, who bought two acres of land at Mount Hawke more than 12 months ago, was responding to fears raised by St Agnes Parish Council and local residents. Councillors objected to the proposal for three permanent traveller pitches, two composting toilets and utility sheds on Skate Park Lane, and urged Cornwall Council planners to reject a separate application for the continued use of a caravan site at an adjacent field for two workers at Insite Managed Services. Councillor Ian Newby, for Mount Hawke – one of 50 people who attended a debate over the plans – said it was a “very emotive subject” that divided residents. “The issue is not with the people living on the sites but it is the change of use of a green field for Travellers. “People are fearful that there’s nothing to stop more Travellers moving onto the site. There wasn’t enough information in the planning application to make it clear what their exact intentions are. “It was also felt that the council shouldn’t allow traveller sites in places where development isn’t permissible. It’s bound to stir local feeling.” One objector wrote on Cornwall Council’s planning website: “None of the neighbourhood have been made aware of this stealth encampment and if those on the land flout the law and regulations then what message does this signal if the applications are granted?” Miss Birkett, a self-employed cleaner, lives with son Rufus, 8, and two male friends who work and live in separate caravans. She told the West Briton: “I bought the site for continuity of schooling for my boy. Most people didn’t even know we were here until we submitted the planning application. “People don’t realise there are sites like this across Cornwall, mostly on farmland in isolated spots. They work because people respect the land and don’t cause trouble. “I’ve travelled all over and I am used to being part of a small community. I was robbed a few months back; I wanted friends I could trust to join me for security and company, but I will not be allowing any more people to move on to the site.” She said she planned to plant more than 100 trees, including an orchard and for fuel, and has the support Mount Hawke Academy, Rufus’s school, and local businesses, including Diana’s Flowers. In a letter to planners Penny O’Keefe from the school said Miss Birkett “worked extremely hard”, volunteered in the school garden and was an “asset to the parish”. The planning officer’s report says the plan would meet the underprovision of Traveller sites in the former Kerrier district, was “very low-key, low-impact, [with a] low carbon footprint, sustainable and ecofriendly [and] will not impact on the wider community in terms of vehicular, environmental or antisocial issues”.

West Briton 10/01/13 –

PLANNING applications for two neighbouring Traveller sites on land near Mount Hawke Skate Park are to be considered by councillors on Monday. Permission is being sought to continue using land as a caravan site and for the retention of two pitches, a utility shed and a composting toilet at Lowarnek. Members have been advised that approving the plans would help Cornwall Council meet its target of creating 25 traveller pitches in the former Carrick council area by 2020.