Outcry over Colchester travellers' site
A PERMANENT travellers' site could be created next to Colchester's main camping and caravan park, it has emerged.The two-acre site at Cymbeline Way, Lexden, is one of four locations shortlisted for a new travellers' encampment in a consultants' report to the borough council.
By Juliette Maxam
A PERMANENT travellers' site could be created next to Colchester's main camping and caravan park, it has emerged.
The two-acre site at Cymbeline Way, Lexden, is one of four locations shortlisted for a new travellers' encampment in a consultants' report to the borough council.
But last night it was warned choosing the site – just yards from the Colchester Camping and Caravan Park – could spell disaster for tourism.
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Colchester Borough Council will discuss all four locations at its meeting next week and, unless members reject any of them, they will go out to public consultation with a final decision due to be made on September 3.
The other possible sites are: three acres of land bordering the Ipswich-bound A12 and the slip road onto it at Ardleigh Cross; and two sites off Severalls Lane – 13 acres near Whitehouse Farm, behind the BP petrol station on the Ipswich-bound A12, and two acres on the opposite side of the road.
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The Severalls Lane land belongs to the council, while the Lexden and Ardleigh Cross sites have been put forward by private landowners.
Borough chiefs asked consultants CDN Planning to establish how many travellers' pitches were needed in Colchester and to decide the suitability of a number of sites. They decided 12 pitches were needed, and drew up the shortlist of four sites.
Last year, the council rejected six other proposed locations around the borough after a storm of protest from residents.
But within hours of the new shortlisted sites being unveiled yesterday , opposition was once again brewing.
Nick Thorp, whose family owns and runs Colchester Camping and Caravan Park, said a travellers' site in Cymbeline Way would cut his business by two-thirds and lead to the loss of hundreds of thousands of pounds of the town's tourism revenue.
"I think it would be a terrible, terrible idea. This is a touring holiday park and our customers put a lot of money and revenue into the local economy."
The Caravan Club site has 165 pitches, which are regularly filled with people from all over Europe, including holidaymakers stopping in Colchester on their way to and from Harwich port.
Mr Thorp added: "It's an absolutely ludicrous idea. I know our neighbours will be up in arms. It will give such a bad first impression for when people arrive in the UK. It just beggars belief."
Lexden ward councillor Sonia Lewis said: "As far as I'm concerned, and I speak on behalf of Don Henshall (her fellow Lexden councillor), we are quite surprised that this site is being considered.
"We know it's still only in the very early stages but we will be supporting the local residents rallying up a constructive opposition to it."
Terry Sutton, Colchester council's cabinet member responsible for finding a traveller's site, said: "I don't know how people will react.
"There will always be nimbyism. There were some extreme right wing comments on the previous consultation. I did receive mail that was questionable and I did discuss those individual letters with the police.
"I won't be bullied into making the decision."
Colchester MP Bob Russell, who suggested the Ardleigh site last year, said: "Clearly it's in the best interests of everybody that we find a site which is broadly acceptable to the community at large as well as the travellers who will be living there.
"What we all need to be doing now is to look at the various sites clearly and objectively."
Mr Russell urged people to look at a well-run travellers' site off the A14 near Cambridge as an example of how they should be.