Travellers put the case for their field of dreams

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A group of travellers took their case to the Court of Appeal yesterday after the Secretary of State for the Environment turned down planning permission for them to build experimental homes in a field they had bought in Somerset.

The 20 members of the Kingshill Collective were the subject of a planning inquiry last year which could set a precedent for "alternative dwellers" across Britain.

Nearly two years ago they bought four acres of land near Glastonbury and applied for permission to set up home. Their alternative village - comprising 16 "benders", semi-permanent homes made from largely organic materials - takes its power supply from solar panels, uses dead wood for heat and draws water from a borehole at the top of the field.

But it was denied permission by Mendip District Council which said it was seeking to protect the rural and visual character of the area.

The refusal and appeal led John Gummer, the Secretary of State, to "call in" theirs and similar judgements for reconsideration.

Mr Gummer wrote: "The considerations favouring the grant of planning permission include continued security, savings to the public purse, sustainability and experimental value..." But he added: "The view is taken that all of these considerations... are not of sufficient strength to outweigh the strong planning objections, including the highway objections."

In the High Court yesterday, Murray Hunt, representing the Kingshill Collective, told the court that the Secretary of State failed to reassess not only the strength of planning considerations, but further, the balance between these and the personal circumstances of the people of Kingshill.

He also said that Mr Gummer had misdirected himself to the circumstances in which the European Convention on Human Rights is relevant to his determination of planning appeals.

The judge, Lord Justice Rich, is expected to pass judgement on the case tomorrow.