Site for gypsies and travellers to be built

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A DEDICATED site for gypsies and travellers is to be built on land off Queensway in St Leonards.

Hastings Borough Council wants to build the facility on fields behind woodland at the junction with Crowhurst Road and Queensway.

An outline planning application was submitted in January and discussed on Wednesday by the council’s planning committee where councillors gave unanimous approval. The council owns the majority of the land and part of the access to the proposed site is on land owned by East Sussex County Council.

The proposed site will accommodate two permanent gypsy and traveller pitches. Each pitch, which would be around 300 sqm, has space for a mobile home, touring caravan, parking and turning and an amenity block containing washing facilities.

The site would accommodate two families who would have to lease the site from the council.

Any travellers camping illegally on private land within Hastings would not be directed to the site.

Residents in the area are not happy and more than 60 signed a petition objecting to the scheme.

Steve Bowles, chairman of Mayfield Area Residents Association (MARA), which represents residents living in nearby Catsfield Close, Whatlington Way and neighbouring streets, said at Wednesday’s meeting that the proposed site was inappropriate because of its location, being near a major road and railway crossing.

He said: “This is not about being a traveller or gypsy and I appreciate that they have to stay somewhere but there must be better places elsewhere in Hastings. The council should at least find a decent sized area where more than two families can live there.

“Robsack Wood School already has 57 too many children and there are no school places left for extra children. With two more families moving here that could mean quite a few more children.”

Patricia Knight and her husband Peter, who are both in their 70s, live at a property called Sanctuaire and the closest distance the proposed site will be 12 metres from their home.

When the Observer reported on the proposed scheme in January they said they were ‘totally devastated’ over the plans.

Cllr Peter Pragnell said: “This is an eminently suitable site and I do understand the concerns of some residents. Amenities are close by.”

Cllr Finch agreed and said: “This is a very emotive subject and there are a lot of unspoken objections on this issue but this is a suitable site.”