Travellers' site finally earmarked
A LOCATION for a council-run travellers' site in Colchester has finally been chosen – after over two years of trying to find one.Colchester Borough Council's cabinet last night chose a patch of council-owned land east of Severall's Lane, in north Colchester, for a permanent travellers site, to replace the Hythe site which closed in April 2002.
By Juliette Maxam
A LOCATION for a council-run travellers' site in Colchester has finally been chosen – after over two years of trying to find one.
Colchester Borough Council's cabinet last night chose a patch of council-owned land east of Severall's Lane, in north Colchester, for a permanent travellers site, to replace the Hythe site which closed in April 2002.
The cabinet took the decision watched by 300 people, who were mostly opposed to any of the three possible locations which had been listed.
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Colchester council will now offer the land to Essex County Council for a 12-pitch county-run site. People living there would have to pay a deposit, weekly rent and council tax.
But it will only get the go-ahead if the county gets planning permission – from Colchester council – and with strict conditions including an undertaking by the county to compensate anyone who suffers as a result of mismanagement of the site.
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The chosen site is in a rural part of the borough, near the villages of Boxted and Langham, the Highwoods housing development and Severall's Business Park.
Businesses nearby opposed all three of the possible locations, which included land west of Severall's Lane and a site near the Ardleigh Crown.
There was much criticism of the council's consultation process and mistrust that either the county council or borough council would be able to run a travellers' site without any problems, as well as general opposition to any of the three possible locations, among speakers at the meeting.
Paul Baker, of Rapid Electronics, based on the business park, said if the site gets the go ahead his company would not proceed with plans to expand their business by 300 extra jobs and would possibly pull out of Colchester altogether.
Robert Lang, of Colchester Chamber of Commerce, said a travellers' site near the town's prestigious business park would deter other companies from coming to Colchester.
Tim Brendall, of Boxted Parish Council, said: "The parish of Boxted and residents are vehemently opposed to all three sites."
He was critical of the council's consultation process, saying: "It feels like an old Western, when the sheriff turns to the accused and says: 'We'll give you a fair trial and then hang you'."
Linda Thomson, of Ardleigh Parish Council, said: "North East Essex is a growing area. This is going to be put a blight on it all."
Christine Atkins, of Colchester, was the only member of the public to speak in favour of a travellers' site.
She said: "The days of gipsy people travelling have finished, where are they supposed to go?"
Peter Chillingworth, cabinet member responsible for the issue, said: "Travellers prepared to put down a deposit, pay council tax and put their rubbish out deserve a chance."
Council leader John Jowers said although he was in favour of finally choosing a site, after over 18 months of delays, he was going to raise the issue of whether there was a need for the site with the county council.
At the meeting, four members voting for the site, two against and two abstained.
At the end of the meeting, Mr Jowers told members of the public opposed to the site they could now object formally through the planning and policy development committees.