Travellers' site to get the green light?

CONTROVERSIAL plans for a travellers' site in Colchester look set to be approved, despite a host of objections from the community.Officers at the borough council have advised the planning committee to give the green light to the proposed site at Severalls Lane East, just north of the A12, but with 17 conditions.

CONTROVERSIAL plans for a travellers' site in Colchester look set to be approved, despite a host of objections from the community.

Officers at the borough council have advised the planning committee to give the green light to the proposed site at Severalls Lane East, just north of the A12, but with 17 conditions.

It comes amid widespread opposition to the plans, with residents and businesses raising concerns that the site would look like a “military installation” in the midst of the open countryside and would cause noise pollution and traffic congestion.

The 257 letters sent to the council also raised objections based on the impact the travellers' site would have on the local infrastructure, including schools, the health service and drainage facilities, as well as the affect on protected wildlife species and fears over increased crime.

But the Gypsy Council has backed the plans, saying the site would be another step forward in solving the problem of unauthorised yards.

The application is for a site office, 12 amenity units consisting of lounge, kitchen and bathroom in six semi-detached blocks, with each plot having a paved driveway and caravan parking area.

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The plans, which have had two letters of support, would also see a new access road, a central children's play area, landscaping and woodland planting as well as a drainage system.

But Paul Smith, councillor for the nearby St John's ward, last night claimed any decision to establish the site on the location would go against town policy.

“My objection comes from the fact that it is going against the Colchester plan where we have always agreed that developments can go up to the A12 but not beyond it,” he said.

“We've already got problems with schooling and not enough secondary school places in the area, people are being bussed to the other side of Colchester to go to school.”

Mr Smith said many residents were going to attend the planning committee meeting next Monday

The parish councils for Langham, Myland and Boxted have also voiced concerns, particularly surrounding the supervision of the site and the “poor” safety conditions of Severalls Lane itself.

The news comes after the council rejected plans for a site at Turkey Cock Lane, near Stanway, at the end of last year.

Grattan Puxon, a member of the Gypsy Council and a Colchester resident, said a permanent site is now long overdue and much needed, and added that the facility would help change perceptions of travellers.

He said: “I'm definitely in favour of it. It has been a long time coming and I'm glad to have got to this stage as the plans have gone backwards and forwards for some time.

“The need has always been there since the closure of the old site at The Hythe, I've been involved for 40 years.

“It is just another step towards solving the problem of unauthorised yards. I'm not going to get into an argument about which site is better.

“Essex County Council must provide housing for travellers - they're obliged to do that after the 2004 Housing Act.

“This is a victory for common sense. Money has been spent blocking old sites and refusing planning applications for private yards.”

A report to the borough council's planning committee, says: “The proposal must be considered in the light of Government guidance on Gypsy and Traveller sites together with relevant development plan policies.”

The recommendation comes with 17 main conditions, including the need for adequate parking at the site and measures to protect trees and hedgerows, as well as four “informatives”.

It is set to be put to the council's planning committee at a meeting on Monday October 30 at 6pm.

elliot.furniss@eadt.co.uk

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