CONTROVERSIAL Gypsy-traveller caravan plans in Garnant have been narrowly approved by Carmarthenshire’s planning committee.

Some councillors wanted to see proof that the applicant was a Gypsy-traveller, despite being advised by a planning officer that this was the case.

Committee members were also warned that turning down the application could leave the authority open to costs if a subsequent appeal was upheld by the Welsh Government.

The application was to retain a static caravan at a site owned by the applicant off Brynceithin Road, together with the construction of a utility room, septic tank and parking area for one touring caravan.

The report before the committee said the applicant and his family were originally from Berkshire and had moved to Hampshire before coming to Garnant in 2012.

They lived in a house for a while before the marriage broke down, prompting the applicant to move into the nearby static caravan.

A petition with 44 signatures, plus eight letters, opposing the application were submitted to the council.

Objectors said the development to date was unsightly, and would put further pressure on what they claimed was a problematic water supply in the area.

Garnant councillor Kevin Madge told the planning committee: “I have never seen so many residents angry about it.”

Councillor Dorian Phillips asked if there was evidence that the applicant’s marriage had failed, while councillor Ken Howell asked what evidence there was of his Gypsy-traveller status.

Planning officer John Thomas said a 15-page statement justifying the applicant’s lineage and background had been submitted, and that Gypsy-traveller sites were lacking in the Garnant area.

As such, said Mr Thomas, there was a presumption in favour of the development.

Some councillors felt aggrieved they were not allowed to see the 15-page document, which was described as sensitive, and wanted to know if its contents had been checked.

Referring to the absence of records, such as bank accounts – which is not uncommon for Gypsy-travellers – Mr Thomas said it was “extremely difficult to follow evidence because there is no evidence”.

But he said that officers had consulted housing department colleagues, who “verified that it’s common practice to accept justification statements”.

Planning conditions include that the site can only be occupied by the applicant and his dependants, and that when this ceases the land must be restored to its original condition within three months.