Havering planning committee offer family lifeline

A DOWNTRODDEN family has been shown compassion by Havering planning councillors, who granted them special permission to live in a mobile home in green belt land.

However, planning officers worried the decision would set an unwelcome precedent for building on protected sites, during a hotly-debated Regulatory Services Meeting in Romford Town Hall, on Thursday evening (November 18).

The mum, dad and two daughters - aged eight and 16 - live in Broxhill Road, Havering-atte-Bower, with the man’s ailing mother.

The family moved to the site from Dagenham four years ago, after the applicant lost his job and became homeless, and following school bullying of the younger child.

The mother requires 24-hour medical attention from her daughter-in-law for a range of health woes, including emphysema and osteoarthritis.

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An external planning advisor wrongly told the couple the site was suitable for a mobile home, and Havering Council slapped an enforcement notice on the household earlier this year, demanding the caravan is removed and open land reinstated.

Cllr Sandra Binion took up the family’s cause and in a poignant speech to the committee said: “The family moved to the site due to finical and family problems and were at the time advised that they were legally entitled to do this, due to bad advise they now find themselves in this stressful position.”

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Committee vice-chairman, Cllr Barry Tebbutt, acknowledged the case was a “very special circumstance”, and put forward a motion to allow the family three-year temporary permission to inhabit the site.

“I visited the site,” he said, “and this family has a lot of problems that aren’t detailed even in the report. The mother-in-law is very ill and there are particular problems with the young child’s behaviour. My recommendation is based on these factors - I feel strongly for the family.”

He added: “There are no objections from the neighbours, in fact the majority of the people here tonight are neighbours of the family who are supporting the application – how often do you see that?”

The planning permission would be tied strictly to the family, he clarified.

But head of planning Patrick Keyes, while expressing sympathy for the family’s “sensitive” predicament, said that any household could find themselves in the same boat.

“[Planning] can be quite a cold process,” he explained. “A precedent can’t be set in allowing this mobile home on this basis - it is something that any family could unfortunately experience at some time.”

Head of legal services, lawyer Vincent Healy, added that in this case the “bar of special circumstances” was very high.

The committee voted unanimously to grant temporary planning permission.

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