Fresh twist in Utopia planning controversy

Utopia Site on Kepple Lane, Garstang

Utopia Site on Kepple Lane, Garstang

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Garstang’s longest-running planning wrangle looks set to take a new twist, with Kepple Lane landowner Stanley Cubbins likely to win two major victories this afternoon.

Travelling fairground boss Mr Cubbins was at the centre of major protests when he set up his ‘Utopia’ caravan site for his family members on his land south of Kepple Lane about eight years ago.

There was anger at Wyre Council’s response to Mr Cubbins’ move and his retrospective planning application, which was granted – for a temporary period of five years – in 2009 after a bitter appeal.

Now, with only months to go before his permission runs out, Mr Cubbins has lodged two parallel applications:

• to be allowed to keep his caravans at Utopia Park for another three years

• for a 75 home estate on the site.

Neither proposal has attracted anywhere near the amount of opposition given to Mr Cubbins’ earlier caravan park plans. If both sets of plans are approved Mr Cubbins, who heads a long-established travelling showmen’s family which operates fun fairs in the region, will be a double winner.

The first set of plans will give him the right to stay on the site, which he owns, until 2017. The second would give him the opportunity to sell the prime location to a would-be developer.

The only opposition this time round has come from a handful of local residents, Garstang Town Council and Wyre MP Ben Wallace.

In a letter to Wyre Council Mr Wallace says to allow Mr Cubbins another three years would make “a mockery” of the appeal inspector’s decision in 2009 to allow a five temporary year stay. He also queries Wyre Council’s efforts to find an alternative site for Mr Cubbins and his extended family.

Mr Wallace also opposes Mr Cubbins’ housing plans saying the site should stay as a “greenfield site, protected for future generations.”

One Kepple Lane resident, in a letter to the council, describes the Utopia site as “an industrial eyesore.”

Garstang Town Council has opposed both the time extension and homes application.

Mr Cubbins has rarely commented publically over the controversy his plans have created over the past few years.

The last time he spoke out was at a packed public meeting in 2007 when he criticised a retired senior police officer from Garstang who had claimed there was a possibility of itinerant travellers moving onto the site.

Previous concerns about traffic safety on Kepple Lane have been dismissed, with Lancashire highways chiefs saying they have no objections to Mr Cubbins’ request for three more years at the site. They say his caravan park has had “an acceptable impact on the highways network.”

In his latest application, Mr Cubbins includes a “welfare statement” which says of the 26 people living on the site, six are children.

A report to the committee by officials says: “The council’s adopted Local Plan / saved policies / does not include any policy relating to the provision of sites for gypsies or travellers.”

It adds: “There is a justified need for this level of travelling show person plots and no allocated sites in the borough at present.”

The council says the human rights of Mr Cubbins and his family have been taken into account by the planning officials in making their recommendation to approve.

The officials say: “ “The number of children on the site and their ages, including those not yet born, any health issues, and the number of children that attend the local school are known.

“There is a benefit to the families to have a settled base in terms of health care provision and schooling that is not disputed, and the trauma of removing the occupants of the site when there is no allocated site to move to adds significant weight to the proposal.”

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