New battle heats up over ‘illegal’ Three Cornered Piece gypsy site at Harting

Gypsy mobile home leaving three-cornered piece in South Harting
Gypsy mobile home leaving three-cornered piece in South Harting

THE battle of the ‘illegal’ gypsy encampment, Three Cornered Piece at East Harting, has erupted again with a retrospective plan to change its use to a traveller site.

The latest move from Christopher and Jimmy Searle who own the site, has been met by outrage from objectors who claim it flies in the face of the rulings of the High Court, Portsmouth County Court and government planning inspectors.

They believed the fight had finally ended when in April, a High Court judge ordered the gypsies to leave.

But now the Searles have made a new application to change the use of the land to a traveller site.

Planning consultant Alison Heine, a gypsy and traveller specialist, submitted the plans on their behalf.

While previous appeal decision was a ‘material consideration,’ she said, there now had to be regard for current circumstances and policy.

“Harm to this part of the national park should be accorded substantial weight. But this is a case where there are other considerations that clearly outweigh the harm.”

“There are now five children living on the site, three of whom are in full time education and one is at a critical stage about to transfer to secondary school.”

In addition there was no up-to-date ‘need’ assessment for traveller sites and there had been ‘slippage’ in the preparation of development plan policy.

“Planning Policy for Traveller Sites now requires significant weight to be attached to unmet need,” she said.

The South Downs National Park should now produce a local plan to meet these needs, but this was not due to be in place until 2017.

Portsmouth County Court earlier ruled this year the Searles were in breach of an injunction granted in 2010, to stop any further works on the land.

They were ordered to leave the site by August 16.

The district council took enforcement action demanding the removal of the mobile homes in 2009. The gypsy family appealed and their case was called in by local government secretary Eric Pickles.

The resulting High Court battle rejected the gypsy’s appeal despite a planning inspector recommending Mr Pickles to grant temporary three-year planning permission.