• Committee overturns eviction for Tipton woman

    24th August 2012 | News | Claire
  • East Devon District Council had previously ruled that Kelly Lynch, who lives just outside Tipton St John, could not continue to live in her caravan, on a small patch of land.

    Kelly’s grandmother, Violet Small, who died in 2004, had a ‘personal use’ permission to live in the caravan for her lifetime, on the basis that she was a gypsy.

    When Kelly inherited the land and the caravan from her grandmother after she died, she also applied for personal use, which was rejected by East Devon District Council and upheld at appeal.

    EDDC then began enforcement action.  In February this year, after being served with an eviction notice with a deadline of the end of April, and the threat of prosecution if she did not leave, Kelly, who is a care worker in Sidmouth, contacted me in desperation.

    Following some work undertaken by her agent, it was decided that Kelly would apply to build a small bungalow of 39 square metres, which was very similar to a bungalow approved on the land in 1986.

    The bungalow in 1986 was not built within the required three years and when Mrs Small reapplied for permission it was refused.  This is what led to Mrs Small eventually being granted permission to live there for her lifetime only.

    Although on land designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the site is behind a hedge of around 20 feet high and is not visible from the road. 

    The field next to Kelly’s land contains around six caravans and is run a business. 

    Just a few weeks ago the development management committee approved 15 houses on land outside Tipton St John’s built up area boundary, on the most prominent hill in the village, on land in the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

    The officer’s recommendation for refusal on Tuesday was based on three issues: 

    – increased traffic in an unsuitable access
    – the impact on the AONB
    – justification for a dwelling in the countryside

    Myself, Kelly and her agent John Watts addressed the committee on her behalf.

    I have supported Kelly since she got in touch with me in February because I could not see a difficulty with her continuing to live in her caravan. 

    Strictly speaking the existence of the caravan was contrary to planning policy, however, there were clearly exceptional and unusual circumstances in Kelly’s case.

    It was her home and had been for generations.  Her caravan was virtually invisible from the road and no one had ever complained about her being there.

    Kelly was not entitled to council accommodation because she was young, fit and healthy.  This meant that an eviction would have caused her to be homeless. 

    One of EDDC’s most prominent priorities is preventing homelessness.

    Ottery Town Council supported her application for a bungalow when it came before them in July.

    Happily, at Tuesday’s meeting, support for Kelly’s unique position was quickly felt.  One after another councillors spoke up in her defence. 

    One councillor, Ken Potter, remembered buying a horse from a gypsy who lived on that piece of land, about 50 years ago!

    Cllr Geoff Pook (Ind) made a proposal to approve the application within a few minutes of the debate starting and around half a dozen hands were raised to second the proposal.  Fellow Independent, Cllr Ben Ingham, was fractionally quicker than others, including: Stephanie Jones (Con), Martin Gammell (Libdem), Alan Dent (Con), Ben Ingham, Steve Wragg (Libdem) Geoff Chamberlain (Libdem).

    Cllrs Atkins and Key thought that Kelly should re-apply for personal use, but the chairman pointed out that this was rejected in the past because she was not considered a gypsy. 

    The chairman, Cllr Mark Williamson and vice-chair, Cllr Helen Parr said they could not support the application because it did not meet policy. Cllr Williamson said that he did not believe that there was enough evidence to support Kelly’s case being exceptional.  Cllr Parr said she could not find anything in the officer’s report to disagree with and she knew lots of people who owned land who would like to build houses on it.

    Mr Freeman told the committee that the district’s homelessness problem could be solved if houses were built all over the countryside.

    The committee voted eight votes to six to approve the application for a bungalow, which will take the form of a log cabin.

    Kelly, who expected the application to be rejected, seemed similtaneously in shock and over the moon at the news.

    Five years of enforcement action and months of living under the threat of prosecution fell away.

    She said her grandmother would have been ‘ecstatic.’

    It was a lovely feel-good outcome for me and I went home buzzing.