‘Trojan horse’ claim over plans for gypsy site

FIFTY residents from Brightling, Dallington and Ashburnham attended a public hearing in Bexhill Town Hall over a village traveller site on Tuesday.

The Planning Inspectorate had called the hearing over a planning appeal for Telegraph Point, Coldharbour Farm in Brightling.

Objectors were joined by parish council leaders from all three villages along with district councillor Bob White.

The appeal centred on attempts to lift a temporary occupation clause for an elderly man.

Objectors say they believe the appeal is a ‘Trojan horse’, which will allow Rother District Council to make the site permanent, therefore fulfilling its obligations to provide a number of permanent traveller sites in the district.

Linda Parker, from the Coldharbour Action Group, said: “Council officers were unable to explain why they were defending their position that this highly visible and contentious site, at the top of the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, was unsustainable, when it transpires it is now one of only two sites left for consideration for two permanent pitches in the upcoming 2014 public consultation.

“Officers would only confirm that elected council members were free to disregard detailed reports, previous inspectors’ findings and the expert view of specialist council officers. The lack of relevant experience of some elected council members involved in the permanent site selection was raised by Wendy Myers, chair of Dallington PC.

“Residents repeatedly expressed great concern about irregularities in Rother District Council’s selection process and the lack of an explanation of the decision to have this site allocated to the short list for permanent traveller provision, outlining in detail reasons for unsustainability for the council.

“The residents also reinforced how this appeal would inevitably affect that permanent site selection process, particularly now that the RDC Cabinet has just dismissed the recommendation from the Scrutiny and Overview Committee to re-examine 16 possible sites in favour of this site.”

An RDC spokesman said: “The appeal relates to a non-determination of a planning application relating to the removal of a personal condition.

“The site allocations process is separate to that of the yesterday’s appeal and will be subject to public consultation in due course.”

The Planning Inspectorate decision is due in the New Year.