Cheers at option for travellers' site

RICHARD BATSON The answer to a search for a travellers' transit site in the Cromer area could lie in a council's own backyard.

RICHARD BATSON

The answer to a search for a travellers' transit site in the Cromer area could lie in a council's own backyard.

A field next to North Norfolk District Council's headquarters on the edge of the town is among a long list of sites being whittled down by a special forum. And the location earned cheers from scores of people in the public gallery, worried that the transit site could be put near their village or town.

Many of the suggested spots were attacked as being unsuitable by members of the forum, drawn from potentially-affected parishes.

But they heard that the Holt Road one at Cromer was well-screened, with access off a lay-by, close to only one house, and had the benefit of good pavement access to the town.

Council community director Steve Blatch also said the site close to the council offices helped "good management".

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However, district councillor and landowner Benjie Cabbell Manners said it was also an important gateway to the resort and was close to the main business area, which could suffer.

Mr Blatch said the forum needed to assess all the sites objectively, looking at issues such as need, highway safety, management and impact on the environment and neighbours.

The council is seeking to provide two transit sites - one in the Sheringham and Cromer area and another near Fakenham - to help officials move unacceptable unauthorised camps.

There were also positive noises about two sites off the Fakenham bypass - near the Morrisons roundabout and Trap Lane, as opposed to an earlier suggestion near the football club which had attracted opposition.

A raft of other sites were attacked as being unsuitable. They included opposition to a flurry of sites around Aylmerton and Upper Sheringham close to a school, an adventure centre and the Pretty Corner beauty spot.

At Cromer, sites next to the cemetery, Runton Road car park and old High Station also drew objections.

The meeting heard that unauthorised encampments would normally be tolerated unless they caused major problems - when the authorities needed to have a transit site.

Sheringham chamber of trade representative Andy Bullen said it was likely the travellers would just keep returning to the unauthorised sites they preferred. But the forum was told that was the reason the transit site also had to be somewhere that had the backing of the travellers, who would also be consulted.

Forum chairman Simon Partridge had to talk sternly to some of the public when they held up posters and heckled the meeting. He said the council was going to great lengths to look at a wider range of options than originally floated in a bid to be honest and transparent, with greater consultation. He added: "We must be objective. It is no good saying we don't want it because we live next door."

The forum will now analyse the pros and cons of each site to help boil down the options, and will also hear from a local police chief about enforcement issues at its next meeting on October 16.