Villagers’ anger at council’s gypsy site plans

ANGRY villagers claim they have been ‘kept in the dark’ over proposals for a permanent gypsy site in Brightling.

More than 200 people from Dallington, Brightling, Ashburnham, Penhurst and beyond packed into Brightling Village Hall on Monday evening to express their anger at the plans for permanent traveller pitches at Coldharbour Farm.

Travellers currently reside on the site, which has temporary planning permission.

Rother District Council is considering making it a permanent site to help the authority meet its needs for travellers’ pitches up to and beyond 2016.

The meeting was organised by Brightling and Dallington parish councils and a number of Rother District Councillors were invited to the meeting, but did not attend.

County councillor John Barnes and county and district councillor Kathryn Field were both in attendance.

The Chief Executive of Rother District Council, Derek Stevens, had sent replies to emailed questions.

The assembled crowd said they felt they had not been kept informed, with a number claiming they had only found out about Rother’s plans by word of mouth.

Some criticised Rother for providing ‘contradictory information’ about the plans and others pointed to apparent inaccuracies in the assumptions of the Initial Sustainability Appraisal of traveller sites from July 2012, with one villager branding it ‘optimistically flawed’.

Villagers say there has been no adequate explanation as to why Coldharbour is on the traveller site short list and accused Rother of ‘exploiting’ the existing temporary planning permission.

The authority was also accused of failing to properly consult residents over the proposals, with many complaining they had been ‘kept in the dark’ over the proposals.

It was revealed that some residents have sought legal advice.

Bexhill and Battle MP Greg Barker has proposed, in a letter to the parish councils, to take a parish council delegation to meet with Rother to give the community consensus, which was welcomed.

Other locations also being considered for permanent traveller sites are Beeches Brook and Greenacres Farm, both in Battle, and Cherry Tree Nursery, Flimwell.