Ashfield residents celebrate after council chiefs block travellers’ sites

NMAC11-2740-1 ''Underwood Travellers Site on Felley Mill Lane South.
NMAC11-2740-1 ''Underwood Travellers Site on Felley Mill Lane South.

RESIDENTS in rural Ashfield are breathing a sigh of relief after two travellers’ sites on green belt land were refused planning permission by councillors.

Dozens of people filled the council chamber at Ashfield District Council on Thursday evening to hear the two partly retrospective planning applications be discussed.

Both sites - one at Westwood Gardens, Main Road, Westwood and one at Felley Mill Lane (South) in Underwood - were recommended for refusal by council planners and both applications were unanimously refused by the planning committee.

The Westwood application, which was for use as a residential caravan site for one gypsy family with three caravans, including one static mobile home, erection of amenity building and boundary fencing, was refused for four reasons.

These were that the development was inappropriate for the Green Belt location, that there were highway safety issues with the narrow access track, that neighbours would be adversely affected by comings and goings of vehicles and that there is a flooding risk.

Hundreds of objections to the plans had been received from local residents, including two petitions and 147 letters.

Coun Gail Turner, Nottinghamshire County councillor for the area, spoke against the proposal.

She said: “This application is unsuitable in every conceivable way, from the narrow access track to the flooding.”

She raised fears about the use of a cess pit on a site that is known to flood and explained that the allotments there are still required.

She added: “Local people have been very, very upset.

“The clear message has come through that local people want their area to remain rural and such a development of this nature would destroy that ruralness.”

The Underwood application was for a residential caravan site for three gypsy families, each with two caravans, and an amentity block, including laying of hardstanding, erection of boundary fencing and construction of a new access.

There were again many objections to the plans, with Ashfield District councillor Robert Sears-Piccavey collecting a petition of more than 1,400 signatures and the council receiving 158 objections, including one from the D.H. Lawrence Society.

Though the issues surrounding the proposal were numerous, many were not considered relevant by the planners and it was refused permission because it is contrary to the council’s planning policy, being an inappropriate development for the Green Belt.

Coun Turner again spoke against the development and said: “There’s been nothing but an invasion of the green belt causing untold upset to local people, some of whom have lived there for years.”

Planning committee member, Coun Jason Zadrozny, said that the authority needed to send a ‘clear message’ that retrospective planning applications ‘will not be tolerated’.

Coun Mick Coppin raised the point that he found some of the objections put forward - such as concerns regarding payment of tax - ‘offensive’ because of the racial undertones against the gypsy community.

Coun John Knight said that the application was being refused because it was ‘wrong in law, not because they are travellers’.