A TRAVELLERS’ site proposed for a Dorset village has been likened to a concentration camp.
The Gypsy Council claims that planned security measures are unacceptable and will deter travellers from using the site at Piddlehinton.
And questions have been raised over the way a decision to approve the site was reached.
Villagers reacted with anger when Dorset County Council’s planning committee granted permission for a temporary transit site at Piddlehinton for the next three summers.
The site is adjacent to a business park and residents say it will also have an adverse affect on the existing permanent travellers’ site in the village.
District councillor Jacqui Cuff said she was aware that the local parish council was looking to lodge a complaint with the county council after a chaotic meeting at County Hall to decide the application, and the authority has confirmed it is investigating the matter.
At one stage a proposal to refuse the scheme seemed to have been passed when two members supported it and only one refused, with the other committee members not voting.
The vote was later taken again and the motion failed by four votes against to two for and eventually the application was approved subject to a condition surrounding security on the site.
Cllr Cuff said she was ‘embarrassed’ by the way the meeting was handled.
She said: “The actual decision-making process and the way that was conducted was questionable.
“It certainly didn’t come across as professional as I would liked to have seen.”
Cllr Cuff said the residents had legitimate planning reasons for the scheme to fail, not least the impact on the neighbouring Enterprise Park and the adverse impact on residents of the village and the permanent site.
She also said the travellers using the temporary site would struggle to access facilities such as schools and shops.
With the search for permanent travellers sites continuing, Cllr Cuff said she believed Piddlehinton could be asked to shoulder the burden again in three years’ time as it was seen as the ‘point of least resistance’ compared to bigger populations in Weymouth and Poole where proposed sites have failed.
Jonathan Mair, Dorset County Council’s head of legal and democratic services, said: “We understand there were some concerns about how decisions were made at last week’s planning committee meeting, and we are investigating the matter.”
Concerns of the Gypsy Council
CONCERNS have been raised from the Gypsy Council over the stringent security measures that will be in force when the travellers site at Piddlehinton comes into use.
Joseph G Jones from the Gypsy Council likened the surveillance – with proposed 24-hour security and number plate recognition cameras at the entrance to the site – as like a ‘concentration camp’.
He said: “I just don’t know who would want to use it if they are saying they are going to use number plate recognition cameras on site – that means the police are effectively going to be running the site.”
Mr Jones added: “It sounds a bit racist really because it’s only gypsies and travellers it’s designed for and they are saying that it should have this in-built security.
“It’s a particularly unpleasant idea.”
Head of countryside and business development at Dorset County Council Dave Ayre stressed that the CCTV cameras were at the entrance to the neighbouring Piddlehinton Enterprise Park and were not trained on the travellers’ site.
He said: “It won’t just apply to the residents of the gypsy site, it’s for anybody who enters and exits the Enterprise Park so it will be all the businesses and their customers.”
Firms at the Enterprise Business Park said they were angered by the decision.
Graham McDonald and Roger Cole own Reprint which employs eight people.
Mr McDonald said: “We are all up in arms about it, we are all very annoyed. We do not think it is right that it has just been passed through. It just doesn’t feel right.”
Ian Ring, who owns the Blastech firm on the park, said: “I am against the site being set up unless it is really well policed and from what I understand, it won’t be.
“Most people on the business park are against it.
“I am the president of the rugby club and when we have had temporary travellers in the past, we have had instances of the club being broken into and fly tipping at the same time they are here.”