Villagers fight traveller site plan

SOMERSHAM has vowed to fight plans to build a travellers site on the edge of the village – despite claims that it would be well-run and used by just one family. After an hour-long public forum on Monday evening, Somersham parish councillors unanimously v

SOMERSHAM has vowed to fight plans to build a travellers' site on the edge of the village - despite claims that it would be well-run and used by just one family.

After an hour-long public forum on Monday evening, Somersham parish councillors unanimously voted to recommend refusal of the application relating to land north of The Paddocks in the village.

The application is for a temporary change of use from agricultural to a mobile home/caravan travellers' site of six pitches. The applicant, Frederick Adams, who owns the land, said he intends to move into the site with members of his extended family.

The plans will ultimately be decided by Huntingdonshire District Council, which is is under pressure to find new sites for travellers in the district. The East of England Regional Assembly wants 20 new sites in the district found by 2011.

At Monday's meeting, attended by about 150 people, some villagers voiced concerns that allowing the application would be the beginning of a larger site. Others raised concerns about the safety of the road access, impacts upon the environment and property prices.

Katie Ruff, of The Paddock, Somersham, told the meeting: "To put 24 people behind a scattering of families would have a huge impact on our lifestyle."

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Speaking after the meeting, Geoff Parish, of Somersham business GP Autocare, said some of his customers had said they would no longer bring their cars to him if the travellers' site went ahead.

The parish council voted to reject the application, claiming four main grounds:

n The development would be detrimental to residential properties in the immediate vicinity.

n It would have an adverse impact on the landscape.

n The access point would be on a dangerous bend.

n Environmental concerns due to a lack of services to the site.

Two police officers were in attendance at the meeting, along with a police community support officer. This follows the cancellation - on police advice - of a meeting scheduled last week by campaign group Somersham in Action.

In a statement issued to The Hunts Post, Mr Adams said: "We are applying for temporary three-year permission for six pitches on a 1.8-acre site. Each pitch is likely to contain two 'caravans'.

"The site would be occupied by me and my extended family, which includes my elderly parents and other relatives. It would be an attractive, well-run site.

"The council has identified a need to provide travellers' sites in the district and our application will help fill that need.

"I know Somersham Parish Council is objecting to our application. I would just say that the site is set well back from the road and I intend to put in some landscaping."

Following the parish council's recommendation, the application will now be considered by planning officers at HDC. If the officers opt to recommend approval, a final decision will be taken at a development control panel meeting in either September or October.

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