Static caravans granted permission despite amenity concerns

An aerial shot of Beetley village. The garden centre lies to the north-east, indicated with a red pin.

An aerial shot of Beetley village. The garden centre lies to the north-east, indicated with a red pin. - Credit: Google

Councillors have voted in favour of granting permission for two gypsy and traveller caravan pitches at a Norfolk garden centre, despite concerns raised about a lack of nearby facilities. 

The owners of Shortthorns Garden Centre on Elmham Road,  Beetley, near Dereham, applied for permission for two static caravans and utility blocks on land north and south of their building. 

One caravan has already been established on the site, and so the application was partly retrospective. 

At a Tuesday meeting of Breckland Council’s planning committee, members considered the proposal, and heard presentations from those in favour and against. 

Stephen Boyce, chairman of Beetley Parish Council, told the committee: “We already have a gypsy [and] traveller site within the parish - at least one - and we have very little amenity within the village, no shops to call on… There’s a village hall, and a hairdressers.”

Steve Boyce, 60 from East Bilney was in good spirits as he decorated a Christmas tree at Fakenham Pa

Beetley Parish Council chairman Stephen Boyce - Credit: Archant

He also claimed that the garden centre was “redundant, or very often not opened”.

An officer later said the centre’s owners had advised it was currently being run as a business, and that Breckland had no evidence to suggest it wasn’t.

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Howard Cardus, speaking on behalf of the applicants, said his clients met the government’s planning policy criteria for gypsy and traveller sites, and that the application was therefore eligible for special considerations by the council - which itself had specific policies for gypsy travellers. 

He added that the proposal was “a particularly efficient mixed use scheme, utilising brownfield land to its best effect” and while he admitted the garden centre was outside Beetley’s settlement boundary - normally a factor against a planning application -  he said the gap was only about 100 metres. 

Conservative district councillor Mark Kiddle-Morris asked whether the fact that Beetley had public transport links to Dereham and other villages meant the issue of few facilities in the village could be overcome. 

Mark Kiddle-Morris, Conservative candidate for Guiltcross. Pic: Norfolk Conservatives.

Conservative district councillor Mark Kiddle-Morris - Credit: Norfolk Conservatives

An officer said the family wanted to use the local school for their children, and that was why the location worked for them.

She added that officers had judged that other facilities, such as a doctor’s surgery, were accessible from Beetley by bus. 

Councillors voted in favour of approving the application by nine votes to one. 

A condition placed on the permission will mean that only people employed or last employed by the garden centre will be allowed to use the caravans.