Travellers' site ruling welcomed

A PARISH council fighting plans for a travellers' site is to examine a landmark legal ruling in which a businessman's council tax banding was reduced because he lives near an encampment.

A PARISH council fighting plans for a travellers' site is to examine a landmark legal ruling in which a businessman's council tax banding was reduced because he lives near an encampment.

Myland Parish Council, which has been protesting about plans to build a controversial new site in north Colchester, will look at the result of a case brought by a south Essex resident this week.

Len Gridley, 46, has seen the banding on his bungalow slashed from E to B after Inland Revenue officials agreed his property had been blighted because it backed onto Europe's largest travellers' site at Crays Hill, near Billericay.

His victory at a Valuation Office Agency tribunal in Witham on Tuesday means his annual bill has been cut by a third and it could open the floodgates for hundreds of similar appeals across Essex, hitting council coffers.


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And as the ruling is tantamount to an admission that travellers' sites do affect property prices, it could also add weight to residents' arguments against official encampments.

Jean Beeson, a Myland parish councillor, said the ruling could have huge implications for Colchester residents if planning permission for a new site near Severalls Lane is granted.

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Essex County Council has yet to submit a planning application for the 12-pitch site, but residents living in hundreds of new homes recently built in the area have complained it would hit property prices.

Mrs Beeson said: "There's been a lot of concern about from people arguing their property prices will be affected.

"We will look at the ruling and if it is relevant to people in Mile End then we will certainly draw people's attention to it."

Residents in Copford, where there has been mounting tension over an illegal encampment at Turkeycock Lane, could also be encouraged by Mr Gridley's victory.

The Billericay businessman, who has previously threatened to allow travellers to encamp on land he controls in the constituencies of John Prescott and Tony Blair, will see his annual council tax bill drop from £1,581 to £1,006.

He had wanted the valuation on his three-bedroom property to be cut to band A – the lowest band.

He argued that if the travellers were not there his bungalow would be worth £450,000, but he said estate agents had told him it would now fetch around £150,000.

Mr Gridley added that neighbours were also concerned about fly-tipping and raw sewage.

A spokesman for the Valuation Office Agency said they were "happy" with the tribunal outcome and would not appeal.

"We had a similar case about 10 years ago, but we will wait and see if we get more. People can apply for a hearing to their local Valuation Office Agency and each case will be assessed on its merits."

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