THE Government has given a gypsy family permission to stay on a Moston field permanently after Cheshire East Council failed to provide alternative sites.

Martin Smith and his family had temporary planning permission for four gypsy pitches – each with two caravans – on land south of Dragons Lane until February 13, 2021.

But the family appealed against the time restriction, and now the Planning Inspectorate has ruled in favour of the Smiths after concluding it is ‘unclear’ when CEC will be able to provide enough pitches.

“I know the residents of Moston are very disappointed with the outcome of the appeal and I share their disappointment,” said Cllr John Wray, Conservative member for Brereton Rural.

“Really it is a matter of CEC getting its act together and finding council-owned land that could be allocated for gypsies and travellers, which it just does not seem to have done so far.

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“Maybe the new administration can do what the previous administration tried hard to do – but ultimately failed to do.”

CEC hopes to resolve the issue in its Site Allocations and Development Polices Document (SADPD) – the next part of its local plan strategy, which went through its first round of public consultation last year.

An assessment produced in 2014 said that CEC needed to provide an additional 69 permanent gypsy and traveller pitches.

That number was revised down to 32 last year – a figure which was contested by the Smith family during the appeal.

But both numbers are higher than the 13 additional pitches CEC earmarked in the draft SADPD published last year.

In her decision notice, inspector Claire Searson said: “There is no dispute that the council is currently unable to demonstrate a five-year supply of sites and has been unable to for a considerable amount of time now.

“I acknowledge that the council is committed to addressing need within its emerging and integrated local plan.

“However, I am mindful that the draft plan does not seek to allocate, at this emerging stage, to meet its full need be it to the lower disputed 2018 figure or otherwise.

“Overall, the council continues to be unable to demonstrate an adequate supply of gypsy and traveller sites and it is unclear to me, at this stage, when the need might be met.”

Independent Cllr Toni Fox, cabinet member for planning, said: “There is currently an issue with a lack of provision of sites for gypsies and travellers.

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“It is something that has previously been kicked into the long grass because it is very contentious, but it is something that does need to be addressed and will be addressed.”

Moston already had five permanent gypsy and traveller pitches, while land off Dragons Lane has been subject to a string of planning applications for pitches in recent years – the most recent being rejected in May.

Cllr Wray hopes that CEC can find the pitches it needs in locations across the borough – and he wants to meet with Cllr Fox and Moston residents to discuss the issue.

He added: “It is understandable that the residents of Moston would be getting a bit frustrated because it seems to be concentrated here and that is not fair.

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“It is like having all the houses built in one place, or all the factories in one town, it is not justifiable.”

CEC has also been dealing with a recent rise in unauthorised gypsy and traveller encampments, with the council not having a transit site where it can move caravans on to.

The local authority had planning permission for a transit site in Middlewich, but this expired last year, and CEC is currently conducting a feasibility study on whether it can revive the scheme.

Labour councillors – who now share control of CEC with the Independent Group – say residents are paying the price for the previous Conservative administration’s failure to provide enough gypsy and traveller sites.

Cllr Kath Flavell, Labour member for the neighbouring Sandbach Elworth ward, said: “Travellers have to stop somewhere.

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“And whilst other authorities, of all political persuasions, recognise this and are providing transit sties with at least basic amenities, CEC under the Conservatives seemed to just hope the problem would disappear.

“Well it hasn’t, and it’s the long-suffering residents who are paying.”

Cllr Sam Corcoran, CEC’s Labour leader, told cabinet on Tuesday that securing a transit site to prevent unauthorised encampments was a ‘key’ priority.