Gypsies may return to site

GYPSIES could return to live on a stretch of land near Catworth, despite the threat of prison, after they were denied permission to live there on Monday. Peter Gaskin said yesterday (Tuesday) that after planners turned down his application for 14 pitches,

GYPSIES could return to live on a stretch of land near Catworth, despite the threat of prison, after they were denied permission to live there on Monday.

Peter Gaskin said yesterday (Tuesday) that after planners turned down his application for 14 pitches, he and his extended family could return to the site.

His application, along with one for another site at Chatteris Road, Somersham, was rejected by Huntingdonshire District Council's development control panel.

Another application, for just one pitch also near Somersham, was approved.

The Catworth decision follows a High Court wrangle between HDC and the gypsies.

HDC served four men, including Mr Gaskin, with a High Court injunction to prevent them developing and living on the land.

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But Mr Gaskin said that members of the travelling community were so frustrated at Monday's decision they may choose to live on the site illegally.

He said: "I am very disappointed to say the least. We have tried to comply with everything the council have asked of us only for it to be thrown back in our faces. We will be appealing but it is frustrating.

"It seems that layabouts are treated better than Gypsies by the council. Some of our community are currently on a site near Huntingdon that is getting wetter and muddier and it may be some move back onto the site at Catworth. People may be prepared to go to prison to stand up for their rights."

Councillors decided that the site was too far away from vital amenities and was situated on a dangerous road.

Control panel member Cllr James Fell said that approving the application "would place an intolerable burden on the local community," while Cllr Jeff Dutton agreed: "I support travellers but this is simply not the right application for this site."

Meanwhile, an application to set up six pitches on land north of The Paddocks on Chatteris Road, Somersham, was also rejected, despite an impassioned plea from applicant Fred Adams.

Addressing the panel, Mr Adams told councillors he was a genuine Romany Gypsy and was going against his beliefs by living in a house. He said he planned to sell his house in Stukeley Meadows and use it to develop the site, where he intended to move with members of his extended family.

But councillors decided the application would have an adverse impact on residents, businesses and the character of the area, and access to the main road would be dangerous.

The application had prompted the formation of a campaign group, Somersham In Action. Many members were in attendance on Monday evening, some with placards.

Mr Adams declined to comment after the meeting.

Meanwhile, an application for a single Gypsy family to live on land at the corner of St Ives Road and Pidley Sheep Lane was approved for three years.

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