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Plans for official travellers' sites

PUBLISHED: 08:30 24 June 2006 | UPDATED: 11:05 22 October 2010

RICHARD BATSON

Gipsies could camp out near a school and football ground as officials earmark where to put official travellers' transit sites in north Norfolk.Plans for official travellers' sites

Gipsies could camp out near a school and football ground as officials earmark where to put official travellers' transit sites in north Norfolk.

Farmland near Wood-Dene School at Aylmerton near Cromer and on the Fakenham bypass near the football club are the preferred options in a new planning blueprint.

Officials say they expect opposition from neighbours - but will use compulsory purchase powers to provide sites if necessary.

Without official sites authorities will find it harder to deal with illegal invasions on more sensitive places such as seaside carnival grounds, car parks and commons.

The school's head has branded the site close to her 200-pupil complex "ill-conceived" - and the football club has already had problems with dogs and crime from a neighbouring unofficial site.

North Norfolk District Council strategic director Steve Blatch said: "It is one of those difficult decisions to take forward, but if we don't, the potential impact on the community through illegal camps will be difficult to manage."

The suggested sites, both on the A148, took into account where travellers had stopped before -

which included Cromer carnival ground, Runton common, and a

picnic area and main town car

park at Sheringham.

"We cannot go 'over the ridge' into the Runtons, Cromer and Sheringham because of the impact on seaside resorts, businesses and local communities," he added.

There was no need for the kind of large permanent travellers' sites which had caused a furore in south Norfolk. Demand in the north of the county was for short stays to visit carnivals, festivals and to holiday - rather than to stay and work.

The sites, for 10 vans each, could be used for up to three months, but it would more typically be for one or two-week stays.

The council had asked all parish councils, the National Trust and major landowners to suggest sites - and heard nothing, but was still open to suggestions.

The preferred sites are:

A triangle of farmland off the Fakenham bypass - next to a piece of disused road, behind the town football club, that has been used by travellers in the past. The old road is earmarked as a "plan b" but the long thin shape provides manoeuvring and access problems vehicles.

A field next to woodland opposite Wood-Dene school, - which is away from housing, and well screened. Other options are: "Pope's Field", an exposed "gateway" site on the main road into Sheringham, just off the A148, which has been used unofficially in the past; and land in a layby close to the household waste recycling site near the Hilltop adventure centre, which needs a lot of work and levelling.

Wood-Dene principal Diana Taylor said that finding such sites was "always going to be contentious" but felt the site near the school was totally ill-conceived.

Highways officials had objected to the school's own extension plans because of the potential extra traffic generated - so she was surprised the authorities thought there was no similar safety issue involved with a travellers' site.

A spokesman for Fakenham Town football club, who declined to be named, said they were also against a site on their doorstep, having had problems with the unofficial one - with dogs running around the pitch and items from television aerials to cabling being stolen.

The gipsy policy is just the latest part of the bigger local development framework masterplan which will go out to public consultation from September 25 to November 6.

Full details of the draft policies and site proposals, along with dates of the meetings, and how to lodge views - for and against - are on the district council website www.northnorfolk.org/ldf


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