Travellers site bid is postponed

RESIDENTS opposed to a permanent new home for travellers in rural north Essex were denied a first major victory last night after developers withdrew their plans at the last minute.

RESIDENTS opposed to a permanent new home for travellers in rural north Essex were denied a first major victory last night after developers withdrew their plans at the last minute.

Villagers in the small and close-knit community of Little Tey, near Colchester, were said to be "disappointed" and "concerned" that the possibility of a 12-pitch travellers' site opening on their doorsteps was still looming over them.

Members of Colchester Borough Council's planning committee had been set last night to reject proposals from a private company to transform a 2.7 hectare field off the A120 into a permanent home for the region's travelling community.

In a detailed report prepared for the meeting, council officers, who had carried out a consultation exercise about the proposals, urged committee members to block the private developer's bid claiming it was not justified.

But a fax sent to the council yesterday morning by Ongar-based Smart Planning Ltd, company director Russell Forde made clear the controversial application was being withdrawn.

He said: "It is with regret that I note your committee report was drafted before you had received my substantive response.

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"In addition there are a number of other issues raised in the report which plainly could have been the subject of meaningful discussion and negotiation."

He said he had made it "quite clear" throughout the process that he was prepared to compromise in order to secure planning permission.

He added: "It is as a consequence of the premature report and the absence of negotiation on you part that I am left with no alternative but to withdraw the application.

"I do so on the basis that I would wish to discuss the identified planning issues with you as soon as possible."

Nigel Fitch, chairman of Marks Tey Parish Council - which includes Little Tey - said: "It's a bit concerning that they have withdrawn like this - we don't know what they have planned.

"We were all prepared to celebrate, so it's disappointing. The company obviously didn't want to get a refusal because that would've meant going to an appeal.

"This way, they still have a chance to get approval and that's worrying."

Every Little Tey villager had signed up to a campaign to oppose the plans to build the private site on Appleton Field.

As well as adorning telegraph poles alongside the A120 with placards declaring their opposition, the Save Little Tey action group also drew up a 25-point list of concerns.

These included a lack of facilities for the travellers, the potential rubbish they could cause and an effect on local property prices.

Council officers concluded that not enough satisfactory evidence had been given to prove a need for a camp in the locality, and that it would be detrimental to the appearance and character of the surrounding rural area.

Their report also said the camp would cause traffic and transport problems and that it would result in a "loss of amenity" to neighbours.

The Little Tey proposals are separate to the impending decision for a permanent official travellers' site at one of three possible locations north of Colchester.

The borough council's cabinet will make a final decision on that issue next month.

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