Farmer refused planning permission, whilst gypsy site grows

Farmer refused planning permission, whilst gypsy site grows


By Dawn Murden

A farmer from Cambridgeshire has been repeatedly refused planning permission to build a permanent home on his land, while next door one of the UK’s biggest illegal travellers’ camps has been allowed to grow; it was reported in the Daily Mail.

Bruce Margretts, 46 has been living in a mobile home on his 47-acre farm for 13 years in Smithy Fen near Cottenham, while applying to build a permanent residence.

He has been looking after cattle on the site since 1992, and six years later began applying to build a modest size bungalow.

Conservative- led South Cambridgeshire district council has rejected his application three times.And while Mr Margretts has spent £8,000 on failed applications since 2001, the Smithy Fen traveller’s site just half a mile away, has been left to flourish.

The 11-acre site grew to 20-acres, despite not having planning permission, and was home to more than 800 illegitimate travellers at its peak in 2003.

Seven semi-permanent homes remain occupied at the site illegally, while Mr Margretts is told his three-bed house plan is unsuitable leaving him fearing for his livelihood.

Speaking to the Daily Mail, Mr Margretts said: “I’m able to raise a mortgage to build a house, but I’m just waiting for the planning permission.”

Mr Margretts looks after around 100 cattle on Oxholme Farm, and needs to be on the site around the clock for calving, feeding and in case of any emergencies.

“It’s essential that I’m here to look after the cattle but if I was unable to live here then I would lose everything. I’m a one man band, living and working alone,” the farmer said.

“There are travellers in the area that seem to have been treated much more leniently than I have.

“You would think that the council would want to support people who are investing money into the local economy.”

Those wanting to build country housing need to demonstrate an essential need and the viability of their business, according to government guidelines.

Deborah Roberts, an Independent Councillor for the South Cambridgeshire District Council, told the Daily Mail she felt a great deal of sympathy for Mr Margretts situation, and said: “I find it extraordinary that Bruce is not being supported in his ambitions to build a modest home on his land at his own expense.

“Traveller families with no connection to the Fens have been allowed to stay when they do not need to be here.”

In 2009 the council was criticised for its actions when it spent £13,000 installing sewage facilities at a traveller’s site, when the dwellers only contributed a mere £500 for the work.

A spokesperson for the council said that Mr Margretts has failed to show the council the financial information needed to confirm the viability of the farm, but said if it continues to progress he would eventually get permission to build a permanent home.

Despite the failed attempts, Mr Margrett plans to apply again this year.


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