Travellers' site row goes to Parliament

By Dave GooderhamAN application for planning permission for a controversial travellers' encampment will be discussed in House of Commons.David Ruffley, the Bury St Edmunds MP, will question Government ministers in the House of Commons on Thursday following concerns from residents over the encampment in Elmswell.

By Dave Gooderham

AN application for planning permission for a controversial travellers' encampment will be discussed in House of Commons.

David Ruffley, the Bury St Edmunds MP, will question Government ministers in the House of Commons on Thursday following concerns from residents over the encampment in Elmswell.

After initially starting work on the site, a group of travellers have now put in a formal planning application for the encampment as they try to become part of the community in Elmswell and neighbouring Woolpit and Tostock.

But their plan has been opposed by angry residents, who feared property prices would drop and the travellers would have a negative effect on the character of their villages.

Mr Ruffley said planning laws surrounding travellers' sites had caused concern for a long time.

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“Opposition parties have raised these questions and asked how travellers can set up these dwellings and apply retrospectively. The travellers can string out the process in a way the average citizen cannot,” he aded.

“I am unhappy about the current state of affairs and I think currently planning laws need to be changed. Travellers seem to have more expansive rights than non-travellers - it does not make sense.

“Ultimately, the decision rests with Mid Suffolk District Council, but I do not think this is an appropriate development for the site. I have had lots of letters of objection and, on the balance of opinion, I am against this development.”

Mr Ruffley has secured an adjournment debate in the Commons, giving him an opportunity to raise his concerns with a minister from the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister.

“This shows that this is an issue of national importance as well as regional importance here in East Anglia,” he said.

“I promised my concerned constituents that I would raise their views at the highest level and I will now be challenging the Government in Parliament to look at this situation with some urgency.”

The travellers have asked for permission from the council for 18 families to live on the land with space for two caravans per pitch.

A spokesman for the group, which has spent more than £100,000 on the site, said: “We are happy on the site and we are hoping for a peaceful and good relationship with the rest of the village.”

dave.gooderham@eadt.co.uk

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