Fears over travellers' sites plan

PROPOSALS for a new travellers' site has caused uproar in a small rural community which fears water supplies could be contaminated and schools put under too much pressure.

PROPOSALS for a new travellers' site has caused uproar in a small rural community which fears water supplies could be contaminated and schools put under too much pressure.

Outraged residents and business owners near Langham and Ardleigh Cross have slammed a decision by Colchester Borough Council to earmark a nearby field for possible development.

They claim their health and property would be put at risk if it is sited to the west of Ardleigh Cross, just north of the A12 Colchester bypass.

The council's cabinet has approved a shortlist of three potential sites - two pieces of land off Severalls Lane as well as the one near Langham - after the decision to relocate the existing travellers' site from the Hythe area, due for redevelopment.

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The cabinet will make a final decision on September 3, provoking a summer of furious lobbying by concerned residents in the affected areas.

For some near the Langham site it brought back painful memories of the last time travellers settled near their homes a decade ago when they claimed water supplies from Ardleigh Reservoir, which serves Colchester and Tendring, became contaminated.

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They said they were worried that without proper sewerage systems a reservoir feeder-stream running through the proposed field could be polluted.

But last night a spokesman for the reservoir insisted proper controls were in place to deal with any possible contamination.

Father-of-three Clive Nurse, of Lodge Lane, Langham, said: "There's certainly a hygiene worry about the sewerage - not even our houses around here are on the main system.

"People are also concerned about how the schools would cope with a large influx of travellers' children.

"As individuals, I have nothing against travellers, but as a group, their behaviour - sometimes anti-social - does cause people to worry.

"They live differently to us and tend to take things when they wish - there's already quite a lot of crime around here."

Martin Henderson, joint engineer to the Ardleigh Reservoir committee, said: "If the site was an official one, it would have proper sewerage and drainage systems in place, so that would be better than an ad hoc site.

"We have advanced control systems that could deal with any contamination."

Meanwhile, angry North Essex MP Bernard Jenkin said: "I'm implacably opposed to travellers' sites in rural areas where they will not have access to normal amenities and shops that they will need.

"This area is not in the least bit suitable. If this were a proposal for a housing development, it would be refused."

"I'm going to fight the council all the way on this issue."

He added that the council's decision to move away from the existing Hythe site in the town, which is in Liberal Democrat territory, as a political "stitch up".

But Colchester MP Bob Russell said last night: "I think Bernard has spent too long getting caught up in Iraqi conspiracy theories.

"I fully accept the Ardleigh Crown option is out of my area, but it's up to Bernard to come up with positive solutions of his own rather than just being negative. Where would he prefer a site?"

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