Meeting called off as leaflet sparks row

A meeting to discuss controversial plans for a new travellers' site was postponed on police advice after an “offensive” leaflet was sent to hundreds of people.

A meeting to discuss controversial plans for a new travellers' site was postponed on police advice after an “offensive” leaflet was sent to hundreds of people.

Reepham Town Council pulled the plug on yesterday's meeting on the future of the former Whitwell Station site on the outskirts of the town, which Broadland District Council has identified as a possible site for travellers.

It came after Reepham Chamber of Commerce issued leaflets promoting the meeting stating “Wake up Reepham … How might a travellers' site there affect your quality of life?”

Norfolk police and Broadland District Council's racial monitoring officer have been contacted about the leaflet following complaints to the Norwich and Norfolk Racial Equality Council (NNREC) suggesting that the leaflet was offensive.

Police advised the meeting should be postponed as the leaflet had been sent to hundreds of properties and there were fears The Brewery House at Reepham, which holds 120, was too small a venue.

Some members of the community said they felt they had been gagged and prevented from expressing their views on the site's future.

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Reepham Town Council chairman Trevor Bevan condemned the leaflet as a “call for action” and said it might have crushed a community bid to buy the site and turn it into a youth hostel.

Mr Bevan said: “'I was left in no doubt that if things did go wrong at the meeting it would be extremely damaging for the town.

“We had some good things to put to the town and I am sure the town would have come back with some good suggestions. We have now lost that opportunity.”

Mr Bevan added the meeting could now not take place until after the next town council meeting at the end of the month.

“With the deadline to put in a bid on the site being early September it would be very difficult to meet that now. I am very disappointed, a lot of people put a lot of hard work into this,” he said.

Broadland District Council spokes-man Angi Doy said an officer from the authority would be meeting with the NNREC to discuss the leaflet.

She said: “We follow the government's advice that gipsies, travellers and the settled community should live together respecting the rights of each other.”

Anne Matin, director of the NNREC, confirmed it was investigating complaints from members of the public who found the poster offensive.

She said: “I do not find the language used in the leaflet conducive to promoting good race relations.

“Norfolk has a high number of racist attacks per head of population compared to the rest of the UK, it is a real issue.

“We have got to put a lot of effort into helping communities under-stand each other, particularly in rural areas, where there is a larger ignorance of racial issues.”

Insp Roger Clarke, of Norfolk police, said that too many people had been invited to too small a venue and the panel did not include any police or NNREC representatives.

He said: “This is a postponement. Let's have the meeting in the correct facility and safe environment with a good panel to answer questions.”

Reepham Chamber of Commerce refused to comment on the leaflet.