Cricklade family fights eviction
A FAMILY of Gipsy travellers is fighting a council decision to stop them from living and working on land near Chelworth Industrial Estate in Cricklade.
An enforcement notice issued by Wiltshire Council on February 17 this year, required father and son Robert and Tony Cooper to cease living and trading on the land at Hicks Leaze within six months.
The council alleged Mr Cooper had breached planning control by changing the use of the land without permission.
The "unauthorised uses" included parking residential caravans, running a scrap metal and commercial salvage business and storing vehicles including HGVs, coaches, lorries, trailers and horse boxes at the site.
A council report said the vehicles appeared "unduly alien and incongruous in the surroundings".
It added: "The site is in open countryside, where residential use would only be permitted if there were an essential need for agriculture or forestry and new business uses would only be permitted where it is in keeping with the surroundings and has potential to sustain the local economy."
Tony Cooper appealed the enforcement notice in August this year and the case has now been referred to a public inquiry, which started this week.
He appealed on the grounds that he had been using the land for more than 20 years before the enforcement notice was issued, which he believes should grant him immunity from enforcement action.
He added there were no suitable or affordable sites for Gipsy travellers in the area and said the notice period of six months was too short.
However, Wiltshire Council said a lack of past enforcement action did not constitute "unofficial legitimacy".
Robert Cooper, 74, said he had bought the two hectare site for £15,000 in 1985 and raised his five children in a caravan on the land.
In his evidence to Wiltshire Council on August 7 this year, he said: "I have always lived in caravans and mobile homes, as this is part of my culture and traditions. I do not believe that I could cope with living in a conventional bricks and mortar house."
The public inquiry began on Monday and is due to last until Friday, November 2. Senior planning inspector Pete Drew is expected to reach a decision on the case within one month of the conclusion of the inquiry.