Inspector rejects planning appeal over Wigan travellers' site

The site at Lily Lane in Bamfurlong
The site at Lily Lane in Bamfurlong

Politicians have been leading the celebrations after an appeal to gain planning permission for a travellers’ site in the borough was rejected.

Makerfield MP Yvonne Fovargue and Coun Carl Sweeney have spoken as jubilant campaigners marked the end of a tough two-year campaign in Bamfurlong.

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While the elected representatives’ remarks were tinged with regret at how long and drawn-out the process had been, the dominant feeling was unquestionably euphoria.

A Government planning inspector threw out the appeal argument which applicant Ricky Connors and his family had hoped would overturn Wigan Council’s decision to refuse planning application for the area on Lily Lane close to Bamfurlong police station.

In a strongly-worded statement Ms Fovargue spoke of the catalogue of problems the caravans and their occupants had caused in the area.

She said: “While the appeal process has taken far too long, I applaud the decision of the inspector and I know from my postbag that local residents will also welcome the decision notice.

“During the time that the site has been occupied, I have received complaint after complaint. The relationship with the local community has completely broken down.

“Roads have been illegally coned off for pony and trap races, and innumerable horses have been left in public areas, on one occasion, one was tethered to a roundabout.

“Loose horses have been roaming across the streets and equine bailiffs have been brought in, fencing has been improved and the police have been involved — all at cost to local residents through their council tax.”

The problems in Bamfurlong were so bad that Ms Fovargue at one point last year raised them in the House of Commons during a parliamentary debate.

Coun Sweeney, who represents Abram ward in the council chamber, said: “I am pleased that the planning inspector has dismissed the appeal against the decision of Wigan Council to refuse planning permission for the caravan site.

“The development and associated impacts have caused great concern in the local community and this result vindicates that the council were right to refuse planning permission for the site and that local residents concerns about this development were justified.”

Mr Connors originally submitted an application for change of use of the land to become a private family caravan site, with the proposal including building a day room and stables.

Wigan Council’s planning department rejected his bid in December 2016 but this prompted further official action with the Government planning inspector being involved.

The decision will also come as something of a relief to the town hall after several high-profile appeals to the planning inspector went against the local authority in recent times, most notably over house-building in Standish.

In her judgement Susan Ashworth said the most important matter was the harm caused to the green belt.

While there were issues such as the council not having a supply of land for travellers these did not amount to “very special circumstances” needed to build on protected land.