'Gypsy' planners behind Rainworth travellers' site counter complaints

Developers at the Rainworth site are responding to fears over rubbish by claiming the area is already a 'dumping ground' and their plan will improve the upkeep of the land.
Developers at the Rainworth site are responding to fears over rubbish by claiming the area is already a 'dumping ground' and their plan will improve the upkeep of the land.

The Romany developers who are working to build a caravan site for travellers in Rainworth say they are being discriminated against by campaigners.

Aaron Smith has countered complaints from local residents and said people are only claiming they are concerned about rubbish on the site to 'use it as a stick to beat him with'.

Benjamin and Aaron Smith are a father and son business working on the site.

Benjamin and Aaron Smith are a father and son business working on the site.

Hundreds of residents involved in the local campaign, Rainworth Against Inappropriate Development, have opposed the plan for up to 27 caravans on land off Churchfield Drive and said it is too close to a care home and park estate for older people.

Mr Smith, 55, from Leicestershire, who described himself as a Romany gypsy, said residents are hiding their real fears.

He said while giving a site visit on the land: "RAID has been saying they're concerned travellers will be leaving a lot of rubbish - but this site is already a dumping ground for the local community. They're saying gypsies are bad people for leaving a can of pop on the floor, but look at what crime has already happened in Rainworth. Everybody's got a problem with this site but are we going to be safe here? That's what I'm concerned about."

Travellers face a lot of discrimination generally, he said, and comments from some residents are 'hurtful'.

They claim residents are worried about development on the site because it would mean they 'lose their local tip'.

They claim residents are worried about development on the site because it would mean they 'lose their local tip'.

He said: "When we went to the meeting at the Miner's Welfare we were thrown out. It's terrible, when people are criticising you and you're being fair. We've done this properly, we didn't just show up with a caravan and set up a camp. We've been talking to Newark and Sherwood for 12 months."

Mr Smith has been a planning consultant for gypsy caravan sites for the past decade. He has has developed 15 sites in the Midlands, and out of 35 planning applications he has submitted, 33 have been accepted, he said. And more sites are needed, he said responding to concerns that travellers often set up temporary camps and leave a trail of rubbish. "I don't agree with those groups of travellers that just stop anywhere, that's why I want to build sites up and down the country," he said.

The developers will be planting trees, installing a playground for children and laying foundations and plumbing - in all the project will cost £500,000 and take 12-18 months.

Benjamin Smith, 31, Aaron's son and business partner, is in charge of developing the site and will be the site manager when it's completed.

He said: "It's going to be run professionally. There will be electric gates and security cameras - people pay a deposit to live here and and if there's any trouble they are evicted and lose their deposit.

"People should live and let live. If anything in the long term we're going to make it tidier. It's going to be like Dallas up here."

And that's the principle point they are raising with campaigners - rubbish concerns are unfounded as the condition of the land will only improve.

Aaron added: "If they're not bothered about us being gypsies, and it's just about leaving the site a tip - well it's already a tip.

"It's a stick they can use to hit us with, without being racist."

"I want people to complain on solid grounds and not because I'm a gypsy."

RAID members said the area didn't used to be a tip, but has become one since the new owners took down a number of trees.

Amanda Bates of the group added that there were numerous planning concerns on the site.

She said: "This is about the elderly. His people do need places to stay and there is a need for places for travellers, but he's putting people next to a care home. How can the children on that site play when they're getting complaints from the care home? There's not enough space there, it is too confined. There is also an issue around the electric gate - if he puts the gate before the care home all the residents will be trapped. If he puts the gate on the actual site itself then that would be fine and leaves the road clear."

The planning application at Newark & Sherwood District Council is due to go before a committee on February 8.