A Banbury councillor asked Cherwell District Council to assess whether planning applications relating to gypsy traveller sites are being handled differently to proposals of similar scale.
The matter was raised at a meeting of the council’s planning committee when noting and addressing the progress of appealed decisions.
Councillor Cassi Perry (Lab, Banbury Cross & Neithrop) commented: “I’m seeing quite a lot of gypsy traveller refusals that are then coming through to appeal.
“I was wondering whether there is any particular work being done to look at the percentage of them refused compared with similar sized applications that are not gypsy traveller, and the percentage that are overturned on appeal.
“I thought that might be a useful bit of work if it is not being done already.”
Alex Chrusciak, development manager at Cherwell District Council, said “that would require some interrogation of our records” and offered to provide an overview.
Councillor David Hughes (Con, Launton & Otmoor) followed that by raising one of the sites mentioned on both the appeal and enforcement lists.
“One of the gypsy traveller applications at Piddington was granted on appeal and one of the concerns of local residents was that there were lots of pre-commencement conditions,” he said.
“The appeal inspector granted permission subject to those conditions being adhered to but I understand our enforcement team has had to go in because work has commenced and lots has been done.”
Mr Chrusciak offered an answer on general enforcement policy as he did “not want to prejudice any specific case”.
He said: “It is fair to say where there are pre-commencement controls in place for any development, if that development proceeds without being agreed by the council then it is of the upmost urgency that we go on site and understand what is being done.
“With any enforcement investigation, the key thing we are trying to do is address any planning harm that might arise so we have to understand what is happening.
“There may be, hypothetically, situations where developments come forward but in a fashion that is piecemeal or a way that the planning harm has not yet arisen and therefore it is a case-by-case assessment of what we would need to do.”
That led to Councillor Mike Kerford-Byrnes (Con, Deddington) questioning the purpose of conditions.
“The way I heard that was if it doesn’t hurt too much they can get away with it,” he said.
“It doesn’t make the pre-commencement conditions terribly useful, so perhaps some clarity on how that can be addressed and enforced, how we can stop it being circumvented, I think that would be quite helpful to us and to everybody else.”