Traveller sites branded ‘unfair’ on residents

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‘AN UNFAIR burden’ on Billingshurst is how some residents have branded plans for gypsy, traveller and travelling showpeople sites.

A parish council meeting on Wednesday December 7 commenced with a stark warning from the vice chairman ahead of the controversial debate.

“I will not tolerate any abuse from members of the public to other members of the public or to councillors,” stated councillor Doug Rands.

The caution follows an episode in last month’s meeting in which a member of the public had to be escorted from the building by a councillor to ‘prevent further harassment’.

Last week, councillors and members of the public gathered to discuss the potential suitable sites for gypsies, travellers and travelling showpeople recently identified by Horsham District Council (HDC).

The council commissioned a study to find possible sites revealing 13 possible locations (62 pitches), some new or with personal or temporary planning permission and some unauthorised sites that have been ‘tolerated’.

Three of the proposed sites are located within the Billingshurst parish: Fewhurst Coneyhurst (four pitches); Rowfold Nurseries (ten pitches) and; Southview Five Oaks (four pitches).

District councillors Adam Breacher and Gordon Lindsay both (Con), Billingshurst and Shipley, were immediately put under pressure by parish councillor Stephen Buck to answer why the majority of sites are located in the parish.

“Why is the only place for gypsy sites in Billingshurst?” questioned Mr Buck.

Adam Breacher responded: “Horsham District Council have done a report and they’ve outlined sites all over the district.

“I appreciate there are some that are in this area but at the moment the district are fully looking into each site.”

Mr Breacher said he would be arranging a visit to some of the sites last Friday, December 9, with residents.

Parish councillor Roy Grantham said: “The poor devils - the local people - most of them won’t get housing. Let’s help our own people instead of letting outsiders come in and swamp our facilities.”

Residents made their views known as well. Alan Cosh, a retired chartered architect representing a number of residents in the Fewhurst area of Coneyhurst, said: “The Fewhurst site together with the Rowfold Nursery site represent 35 per cent of the total required number which we believe places an unfair burden on Billingshurst and more importantly on the small rural community of Coneyhurst.

“We would request the parish council take our concerns very seriously and support our case when reporting to HDC.”

Rudgwick, Barns Green, Coneyhurst and Dial Post are among the identified sites across the Horsham district.

There is a recognised need to provide appropriate sites and a spokesperson for Horsham District Council said: “This work has taken on increased importance with planning applications coming forward across the district and the publication of draft government policy which suggests planning authorities will have to show a five year supply of traveller sites, in the same way they do for housing.”

A presentation explaining the findings was made by the consultants, Baker Associates, to a council meeting on November 8.

“It is important for people to be aware that the identification of the sites in this study does not mean that they are ‘allocated’ or will necessarily be given planning permission.”

“Horsham District Council will now use the study findings to inform work on the preparation of a strategy for the provision of sites for gypsy, travellers and travelling showpeople as well as a document that allocates individual sites.

“The council is committed to engagement with both local settled communities and the Gypsy, Traveller and Travelling Showpeople community and will continue to liaise with key interest groups throughout the process.

“The study will be used to inform a gypsy, traveller and travelling showpeople site allocation document, which will be prepared next year and will be the subject of several stages of public consultation.”

The final report can be found on the HDC’s website at http://www.horsham.gov.uk/environment/local-development-framework.aspx