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Campaigners say traveller site fight is not over despite vote

By Western Gazette - South Somerset  |  Posted: September 01, 2012

Compton Dundon residents were opposing a planning application for a gypsy site in the village because of the poor access by a narrow, muddy farm track and the location

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Residents living near a controversial proposed travellers’ site near Somerton say the battle is won but not the war after the application was refused.

Plans to change the use of a piece of land off Middle Way in Compton Dundon to allow the siting of a mobile home, one touring caravan and the erection of a utility/dayroom were refused by councillors on South Somerset District Council’s area north committee, against the advice of a planning officer.

The committee voted to refuse the application on the grounds of harmful impact on a rural landscape, the unsuitability of the access road and because it was not demonstrated how technical issues such as sewage and electricity would be resolved.

Angie Roberton, one of the objectors, said afterwards: “We are all very pleased with the decision but this is only round one. We have won the battle but not the war as we do expect there will be an appeal.

“We just don’t think the site is suitable for any development.”

At the meeting on Wednesday, August 22, around 60 residents turned up to show their opposition to the plans and 10 people spoke on behalf of the objectors, raising concerns over the suitability of the farm track providing access to the site and the impact on the open countryside.

Other objections included fears about sewage and electricity provision, the lack of local facilities, such as a school or doctor’s surgery in the village, as well as the impact on wildlife.

Some residents also questioned whether the applicant, Steven Lovridge, is a bona fide gypsy.

There was no one speaking in support of the application.

The committee voted seven to three with one abstention in favour of refusal.

Councillor David Norris, who represents the ward, said: “It is a tremendous relief for the people of the village and I am very pleased at the way the vote went but this is not the end of the story. It is very likely this will go to appeal.”

Fellow ward member Pauline Clarke said: “The debate was quite heated at times but I felt that the decision was the right one. It was not the right place and there were too many unresolved issues.

“It is always difficult to go against the advice of a planning officer but if we never disagreed with the officer there would be no point having a committee.”

At the meeting councillor Sylvia Seal said: “I think this will go to appeal and we will lose, costing taxpayers money.”

The planning officer’s report read: “Notwithstanding the local concerns raised it is considered that the development would provide a gypsy or traveller pitch which would contribute towards a currently unmet need within the district.”

South Somerset District Council’s Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Assessment 2011 assessed the need for sites across the area and concluded there was an unmet need for 18 sites between 2010 and 2020.

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