Heated public debate about proposed Gipsy site
PUBLISHED: 12:03 18 October 2012 | UPDATED: 12:51 18 October 2012
“We don’t want another Dale Farm here.”
That was the message from concerned villagers about controversial plans for a change of use to provide eight traveller pitches with on-site parking and a yard for storing vehicles with a residential unit at Otterwood Kennels on the A1075 at Saham Toney.
A public meeting about the proposal, organised by residents, was held at Ovington Village Hall last night (Wednesday) and was attended by about 70 people, including Breckland and county councillors.
The proposal for the “exemplar” Gipsy traveller site has been submitted to Breckland Council by Joseph Jay, who was born in Saham Toney and is from a traveller family. Agent Stuart Carruthers was involved in the Dale Farm dispute in Essex last year.
Concerns included the access on to the busy Watton to Shipdham road, no footpath near the site and the potential for crime and a decrease in house prices.
Andrew Thorne, of Shipdham who runs an international horse stud and holiday lets, said: “This is just about as bad as it gets. I don’t trust the travellers around us. Our high class customers won’t want to come to Breckland to spend their money here.”
He added he would pay for a barrister to fight the application and threatened to take Breckland to High Court if the council granted planning permission.
“Dale Farm did get beaten and I’m absolutely certain we will fight this and we will win, but you need to be strong and you need to make your voice heard,” Mr Thorne added.
Laura Dunn, of neighbouring Otterwood Farm, said: “We believe the site would be adverse to the local character of the village. We are not a heavily populated area. Because most of the plots are family plots that would more than double the immediate population and dominate the location.”
Mr Carruthers said the small private planning application would help “regulate” the issues on the site, which currently has between five or six traveller families occupying the land. He said Mr Jay would not want travellers from Dale Farm at the Otterwood Kennels site.
Mr Jay told the meeting: “Any complaints to the council about me have been unfounded.”
PC Ashley Grant, Gipsy and traveller liaison officer for Norfolk Police, said: “There are an awful lot of stereotypes with regard to the Gipsy and traveller community. They include being involved with crime and not paying tax, which is rubbish.”
Comments should be made by Thursday, October 25. Type in 3PL/2012/0820/CU in the planning section of the Breckland Council website. The plans can be viewed online or at Breckland Council’s headquarters at Elizabeth House in Dereham.