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Caravan Park for Seasonal Vineyard Workers Must Close, Court Rules

The planning system recognises farmers’ needs to provide roofs over the heads of seasonal workers, but there is no carte blanche for developments that impinge on protected landscapes. In a case on point, the High Court ruled that a permanent caravan site, used to accommodate vineyard workers, must close.

A farmer had been granted planning permission to lay down an agricultural hard-standing, a new access track and an earth bund. Stationing of caravans was also permitted on the site, but that was subject to a condition that they should only be occupied by agricultural workers employed on the particular farm. There was also a requirement that the caravans be removed from the site during the winter months, when the demand for viticultural workers is at a low ebb.

Over time, however, the site became a permanent campsite on which 21 caravans provided year-round accommodation for workers who were employed by vineyards over a wide area. The local authority responded by issuing an enforcement notice requiring removal of all the caravans, save those occupied by agricultural workers employed on the farm.

In upholding the notice following a public inquiry, a government planning inspector noted that there was no evidence that any of those occupying the caravans worked on the farm. Although the caravans’ visual impact on the local landscape was slight, they created a significant urban element that affected the tranquillity and character of the surrounding national park.

The farmer challenged that ruling on the basis that the inspector had ignored his proposed mitigation measures, including the erection of fencing and hedge and tree planting around the site. In dismissing his complaints, however, the Court found that such measures were irrelevant to the issue of whether the caravans could be occupied by workers not employed on the farm.

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