Row brewing over the future of traveller site

A ROW has erupted in a small Suffolk parish over the future of a caravan site.

The dispute centres on a patch of land in Combs Lane, Great Finborough, which is currently a privately-owned site mainly used by travellers.

But Mid Suffolk District Council, in a bid to increase its own allocation of land for use by travellers, is investigating the possibility of launching compulsory purchase order (CPO) proceedings in a bid to acquire the Forge Caravan Site.

The owner, a Mr L Gumble, represented by John Peecock of Peecock Short Ltd, has said many neighbours were “extremely concerned” at the prospect of the council taking over the running of the site.

He added that nobody had been told about the possibility that a CPO could be enforced.

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Mr Peecock said: “I suspect they feel they have some sort of duty to this site to provide space for traveller families.

“We don’t really know why they think they need to intervene in a site that’s already there.

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“Why are they bothering? It’s already owned by travellers and it’s available (for use by others) and why do they need to intervene? That’s why my client is so angry about it.”

A council spokesman said the site had planning permission “specifically as a gypsy and traveller site” with 19 pitches that had been granted in 1982 following an enforcement notice appeal.

He explained that since the permission was granted the site had not had the full range of facilities, such as toilets and water supply, required to encourage use of the site by the gypsy and traveller communities.

He said: “The council has attempted to work with the landowner to upgrade the site to the required standard, but there has been no progress to date, despite grant support being potentially available from the Homes and Communities Agency to assist with such work.

“There is a recognised and significant need for permanent gypsy and traveller sites within mid Suffolk.

“The council has approached the owner and offered to purchase the site in order to bring it up to the required standard so that it can be used by gypsy and traveller communities wishing to access a permanent site.

“At this point this offer has not been accepted by the owner.”

He said that due to the “significant need” for gypsy and traveller sites within the area the council had considered the potential to instigate CPO proceedings.

He added: “In the interim the council has received an application for a lawful development certificate.

“The application claim is that the use of the land as a caravan site is lawful and that there would be no change of use from that permitted under the 1982 planning permission for a gypsy caravan site.”

The claim is due to be decided by August 23 and has to be considered “on matters of fact and law”.

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