VOTE: Was the District Council right to refuse permission for a concrete base for mobile homes on a travelling family’s land?

A travelling family has failed in its bid to consolidate its position on land it owns at Harting.

Chichester District Council has refused the Searle family permission for a concrete base for two mobile homes and a septic tank at Three Cornered Piece, Hollow Road, East Harting.

In its decision notice, the council said concrete hardstandings were substantial features that were visually incongruous in largely-undeveloped rural surroundings.

“No justification for these structures or the installation of the package treatment plant has been advanced in connection with any form of agricultural or equine use of the land.

“Therefore development is not considered essential in this visually-sensitive area.”

The land lay within the South Downs National Park.

The authority has taken a number of steps to try to stop the travellers setting up home at Three Cornered Piece, which is categorised as agricultural land.

Its actions have included the successful defence of an enforcement notice requiring the removal of mobile homes. This is now being legally challenged by the Searle family.

The district planners say the applicants’ sole reason for the introduction of concrete hardstandings and a package treatment plant was to facilitate and consolidate the residential occupation of the land.

But the site lay within an area where firm restraint was advocated over development which was harmful to the rural character and appearance.

The council said it had taken account of the circumstances of the Searle family but they did not outweigh the harm caused to the sense of remoteness and rural quality of that part of the national park. Last month, there was anger on the streets of nearby South Harting when a giant mobile home was transported through the village to what local people insist is an illegal travellers’ camp.

The travellers, however, deny they are occupying the land illegally. They say they have permission to be there for three years.

The 15ft-wide mobile home which was moved there in February was, they said, a replacement for one of the other much smaller caravans.