From Wales Online
One of Wales’s richest entrepreneurs has added his voices to a campaign to stop a Gypsy camp being built on one the nation’s most expensive and prestigious street.
Sir Stanley Thomas – one of Wales’ most successful businessman and prominent philanthropists – is among a host of residents, including a number of prominent businessmen, living on or near Druidstone Road, Old St Mellons, Cardiff, to lodge objections.
As first reported by the Echo last month, a planning application has been submitted with Cardiff council for five Gypsy caravan pitches on a swathe of countryside-designated land on Druidstone Road.
With an average house price of £685,000, the single lane road was last year ranked the most expensive place to live in Wales and is home to some of nation’s most prominent business executives.
Sir Stanley was recently ranked the eighth richest person in Wales by The Sunday Times Rich List 2012, sharing a £225m fortune with his brother Peter, chairman of Cardiff Blues.
The son of food entrepreneur Stan Thomas who built up the Peter’s Pies business, Sir Stanley is one of a string of Old St Mellons residents to lodge strongly worded objections to the proposals.
In his objection, Sir Stanley – who set up TBI, which previously owned Cardiff Airport – wrote: “Druidstone Road is regarded as the most prestigious road not only in Cardiff but indeed throughout Wales.
“The properties, I am sure you will know, are of a nature of quality and the owners have obviously worked extremely hard throughout their lives to be able to live in very expensive homes which in the main, is an extremely peaceful area.
“If this application were to be approved it would have a great impact on the nature and character of Druidstone Road.”
Sir Stanley states that vehicle movement to the site would cause “no end” of noise and disturbance to residents.
“I know from my own experience owning over 500 acres of land and a house on Coalpit Lane, approximately half a mile from this proposed application, the Gypsy family and their associates have caused myself and my family a great deal of disturbance and annoyance,” he wrote.
“They have actually burnt down my hedges, cut down trees to give them a better view and poisoned the land to stop the trees growing again and due to these actions there is now an excess of vermin constantly travelling in and around the area.”
Sir Stanley also states that the land is outside the settlement boundary on land allocated in the local development plan as “countryside”, restricting development to agricultural, recreational and forestry uses. He also states that lorries towing caravans or horse trailers would cause access problems on the road.
The site on Druidstone Road is owned by Michael Evans, but his architect, Keith Chichester, said his client was “not party” to the Gypsy camp planning application. The application was submitted by a Mr L Callaghan, of Wentloog, Cardiff. Attempts to contact Mr Callaghan have been unsuccessful.
Mr Callaghan’s application states that he wants to create one static Gypsy pitch for his family and four touring Gypsy pitches with individual purpose built amenity blocks. He will use his personal knowledge of similar Gypsy facilities to develop the site, which he will also manage, the planning document states.
The current Cardiff development plan does not identify any sites to accommodate established demand for extra Gypsy and Traveller pitches, the application adds. The site is “intended to meet in part the established requirement of gypsy and traveller pitches in the Cardiff area”.
But other objectors include Andrew Howell, managing director of Cardiff-based survival gear specialists BCB International Ltd and Robert Norster, former Cardiff Blues chief executive.
Mr Howell, whose firm manufactures survival and protective equipment for the MoD and defence organisations worldwide, wrote: “From previous experience, we all know that one Gypsy caravan attracts 10. Five potential pitches will attract 50. This is certainly the thin end of the wedge.”
Mr Norster, who stepped down as chief executive of the Blues rugby region last year,2011 wrote: “Having lived on the road for more than 20 years, we have together with many other longer-term residents became sadly all too familiar with the ongoing ‘development’ of a special and almost unique part of our city.
“Obviously, should this application be successful, it will, in our opinion, materially affect the road and its inhabitants and there is unlikely to be an easy or cohesive relationship between this site and the local community.”
In total, more than 40 objections have been submitted, including from local Conservative councillor Dianne Rees and Labour councillor Georgina Phillips.
Old St Mellons Community Council has also objected, siting lack of connectivity, the detrimental effect on the area, additional movements on the road and the dangers to walkers and cyclists from caravans and lorries.
“Finally, given the amount of concern expressed by the local community about this application, there is unlikely to be a peaceful co-existence between the settled members of the community and the occupants of the application site if permitted,” Nicola Winstanley, clerk to the council, wrote.
The final decision on the planning application will be taken by Cardiff council’s planning committee later this summer.