COUNCIL chiefs will not stand against a gypsy-traveller family’s plans for a Moston pitch at appeal – and the move could help block future applications in the same area.

Cheshire East Council was due to oppose Dawn Smith’s plan to keep caravans on a pitch near Meadowview Park, in Dragons Lane, following a decision taken by the southern planning committee last May.

It comes after the National Grid withdrew an objection to the proposal about the site’s proximity to a high-pressure gas pipeline – which could cause a 400m fireball in an explosion.

However, it will become the second permanent pitch close to the pipeline once approved, and Health and Safety Executive (HSE) rules mean that plans for two more pitches in the area – currently lodged with CEC – are unlikely to be approved.

Cllr John Wray, Conservative member for Brereton Rural, admitted it was ‘quite obvious’ this appeal could no longer be contested on safety grounds.

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“It’s unfortunate that we didn’t have more than one reason,” he added.

“There were a number of reasons that were put forward by the parish council that one could have refused on as well as the objection from National Grid – but that’s by the by.”

Cllr Dave Nixon, from Moston Parish Council, added there are ‘lessons to be learned from the episode’ and called for reassurance that residents – who submitted more than 100 objections – will be supported by CEC in future.

He said: “In this instance, we fully accepted the National Grid objection, but we have persistently objected to development in the open countryside and the urbanisation of our lanes.”

HSE rules prevent three or more dwellings – including traveller pitches – being built within the ‘inner zone’ of a high-pressure gas pipe, an area defined by the statutory body.

Ms Smith’s pitch is now set to be the second won at appeal in the inner zone.

That means separate plans for a third pitch wholly in the zone, and a fourth on the cusp of the zone, could be rejected on health and safety grounds.

Cllr Andrew Kolker, Conservative, said: “I’m just curious as to why the HSE regard building two dwellings within the safety zone acceptable, whereas three or more isn’t?

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"If an explosion happens it would take out two dwellings.”

Daniel Evans, planning officer, admitted he is unsure why the HSE uses that guidance – but it is the advice that the planning inspector referred to at the recent appeal for the first pitch, which also ruled out possible other objections.

He added: “Gypsy-traveller sites are very contentious, and I think the appeal decision does cover a lot of the issues we could consider – the character and appearance, accessibility to services and facilities.

“So on this application, we only refused it on the one grounds, and without the backing of any consultees I don’t see how we could offer any defence of that.”

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While CEC will not contest the appeal, residents and Moston Parish Council can still object to the plans.

The decision means that CEC will not be caught out by a possible order for costs if the planning inspector feels the authority has behaved ‘unreasonably’ throughout the process.