Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Gypsy site proposals prompt heated public meeting - Warwickshire

From the Leamington Observer

CONTROVERSIAL plans to establish sites for Gypsies in Warwick district is set to prompt a month of heated debate.

It comes in the wake of a backlash from hundreds of Radford Semele villagers who are fighting plans for a potential site on land at Warwickshire Exhibition Centre alongside the Fosse Way.

The council has been ordered by the Government to provide a total of 31 pitches for Gypsy and Travellers across the district and has identified 20 possible sites as part of its Local Plan. It will decide on the most suitable following a consultation period which ends on July 29.

The Fosse Way site is one proposed, and includes 15 permanent pitches, holding around 30 caravans with service buildings, play and work areas for the Gypsy and Traveller communities.

But landowners say they will refuse to sell to the council, which would force the council to serve a Compulsory Purchase Order.

On Tuesday evening (June 25) more than 400 villagers gathered to express their frustration in front of Kenilworth and Southam MP Jeremy Wright and district council leader Michael Doody.

Spokesman for the the residents’ campaign group, Rowland Johnson, told the meeting plans to develop the site could lead to the closure of the Exhibition Centre, causing job losses and damaging the local economy to the tune of more than £2 million a year.

In addition to the economic objections, Mr Johnson raised a number of other issues including it being unsafe for Gypsy children to play next to a major road, a lack of pavement provision or lighting and the visual impact the Gypsy site would have on the landscape.

Mr Wright agreed the Gypsy site was an unwelcome proposal in the community and urged residents to object to the plans. Coun Doody backed Mr Wright but added the council did have an obligation to identify suitable sites.

Warwickshire Exhibition Centre owner, Chris Deith, also addressed the group saying that since the council’s announcement to earmark his land in the consultation, he had already lost bookings for exhibitions.

Villagers claim there has not been adequate explanation as to why the land is on the shortlist when surrounding area was rejected by the council last year in its Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment as being "not a suitable location for development in terms of access to schools, services, shops, and employment."

Other controversial sites proposed include land adjacent to Tollgate House and Guide Dogs for the Blind National Breeding Centre at Bishops Tachbrook and on Kites Nest Lane in Beausale, which has been occupied by Romani Gypsies illegally for three years.

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