A ONE-YEAR reprieve has been granted to a traveller family bidding to stay on an unauthorised pitch in the north Shropshire countryside.

Shropshire Council’s northern planning committee has approved temporary permission for a site near Welshampton, saying the fact no council-run sites have plots available meant they could not justify evicting the family.

The retrospective application was made by James and Barbara Doran, who have been living on the site with their young children since the onset of the pandemic, having left their previous site in Wrexham because of Covid fears.

It asked for permission for a single pitch traveller site, allowing for the siting of a static caravan, a touring caravan, an amenity block and parking.

Planning officers refused the family’s first application last year, on the grounds that the site was in ‘open countryside’, close to listed buildings, and the plans would have an unacceptable visual impact on the area.

But after a revised application was lodged, officers said the personal circumstances of the family – related to confidential medical needs – tipped the balance in favour of allowing them to stay put in the short-term.

At a meeting on Tuesday, the committee heard there were two vacant pitches on the council-owned traveller site at Park Hall, but that these were vandalised when the previous occupants left and could therefore not be used until they were refurbished.

Planning officer Shannon Franklin recommended temporary permission be granted for two years, to allow time for the work to be carried out. She added that the council’s new local plan would most likely have been adopted by then, strengthening its position in case of an appeal.

Councillor Brian Williams, who represents The Meres, spoke at the meeting to urge the committee to refuse permission altogether.

He said: “You can be sure, absolutely sure, that any planning permission you give today will become permanent.

“It will set a precedent for other gypsy applications across Shropshire.

“The tactics used by the applicants and their advisers will become a textbook for how to occupy open countryside and stay there permanently.

“Make no mistake, if permission is granted today word will go round the gypsy community that Shropshire is a soft touch and the place to get away with unlawful occupation of open countryside.”

Trevor Mennell, agent to the Dorans, told the committee that the family had become settled in the community, with two of their children in the village school and their third child having been born since they moved onto the site.

He said previous work on the site, before it was bought by the Dorans, meant it was “tantamount to brownfield”, adding it was “not isolated and generally screened” by hedges.

Committee members said that while they were sympathetic to the family’s circumstances they did not believe a full two years was needed to get the Park Hall pitches ready.

Councillor Mike Isherwood criticised Councillor Williams’ arguments against the proposals, highlighting the fact that race is a protected characteristic under the Equality Act.

He said: “To make comments like ‘word will go round the gypsy and traveller community if this goes ahead’, as if this family is part of some sort of conspiracy, I think is unacceptable.

“These are people looking for somewhere to live, to happen to be in a particular minority community.”

Councillor Isherwood said forcing the family to move on would have a “detrimental impact on the children’s wellbeing and development”.

The committee agreed by 10 votes to one to grant temporary permission for one year.