A CONTROVERSIAL plan to convert a one-acre smallholding into a site for a Gypsy family has been granted.

Government planning inspector Richard McCoy overturned Hambleton District Council’s decision to refuse enforcement officer Peter Lovell’s bid to create a site for a homeless Gypsy family, following mass evictions from the Dale Farm travellers' site, in Essex, in 2011.

Dozens of residents cheered last February after councillors rejected their officers recommendation to approve the plan to change the use of the site at Hailstone Moor, Bullamoor, near Northallerton.

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It had attracted fierce criticism, including from Allertonshire Civic Society, Osmotherley Parish and Northallerton Town councils, amid claims that a Gypsy family being resident there could harm the attractiveness of the area and cause residents concern.

Mr Lovell had argued the two existing public Gypsy sites in the district, Bankside Close, Sowerby and Hill Field Close, Seamer, were full or had management problems, and despite being refurbished, many local traveller families were reluctant to return.

Following an appeal hearing last September, Mr McCoy said it was clear there was a need for Gypsy sites in the area and noted there were no Gypsy sites in Northallerton, the district’s main centre.

He said with a range of conditions, including one to restrict the number of caravans on the site, it would not conflict with national and local policies over the development of Gypsy and traveller sites.

Mr McCoy said: “In my judgement, this proposal would provide a settled base that would be of a scale that would not dominate the nearest settled community, would not harmfully change the living conditions of nearby residents, would provide acceptable living conditions for future occupiers, would reduce the need for long-distance travel and would not place undue pressure on the local infrastructure.”

Mr Lovell, who is now planning to lease or sell the site to a family, said while he had endured a lengthy period of stress during the planning process, he thanked the objectors for their understanding.

He said: “We can’t forget these people who have nowhere to live and we shouldn’t tar everyone with the same brush.

“There are some nutcases who live on traveller sites, but there are nutcases who live in million pound homes as well.”