A temporary gypsy-traveller site has been given permanent planning permission despite being on land designated as a green wedge, which is normally protected from development.
Swansea Council planning officers came to the conclusion that although the harm to the green wedge was significant, the harm to the gypsy-travellers would be greater still.
They said it was because there remained an unmet need for gypsy-traveller pitches in Swansea, and also that it was important the seven children now living at the Birchgrove site should have continuity with their education at local schools.
Officers recommended the application for approval, with a condition that the eight adults living at the four-pitch site were named and attached to the approval.
If they were to leave, another condition states that the site – off Birchgrove Road – must be restored.
There is also a condition preventing commercial activities on the land, including the storage of materials.
Members of Swansea Council’s planning committee were given a run-down of the site’s complicated planning history. It included a planning appeal in 2013, which the council lost, leading to costs being awarded against it.
Planning agent Nathaniel Green, speaking on behalf of applicant Mervyn Thomas, amplified a number of the points raised by the officer and, referring to the children living at the four pitches, said “the continuity of their education is a key factor in this application”.
There were 36 objections from local people on the grounds of it being within a green wedge, increased traffic, and rubbish being discarded around the site. It was also claimed that the site had increased in size – a matter which is being looked into by the council’s enforcement department.
Also addressing the committee were councillors Ryland Doyle and Penny Matthews, whose Llansamlet ward covers Birchgrove.
Cllr Doyle said their main concern was the green wedge. He said there had been 15 occasions since 2008 when the council had turned down proposals for development on this wedge, which links Birchgrove with Glais to the north.
“Councillors have said, ‘Nothing to be built on the green wedge,” said Cllr Doyle.
He said he was worried that approving the application, notwithstanding its exceptional circumstances, would give developers heart to “have a go” themselves.
Cllr Dolyle said he and others were aware of large housebuilding firms which had asked farmers about buying fields between Birchgrove and Glais.
Cllr Matthews, meanwhile, said she wouldn’t object if another period of temporary planning permission was granted.
Committee members Cllr Will Evans and Cllr Des Thomas put questions to the planning officer, who reiterated among other things that there had effectively been a failure by the council to provide alternative gypsy-traveller sites.
The planning report said one of the reasons for this failure was that the Welsh Government had refused to fund a proposed gypsy-traveller site near the River Tawe because it was on a flood plain.
The committee voted in favour of approval by seven votes to three.