THE final decision on the future of a controversial travellers’ site is set to come straight from the top.
Eric Pickles, secretary of state for communities and local government, has decided he will have the final say on whether the group of travellers will be given the go-ahead to stay on their Staining site.
A public inquiry over the future of the travellers – who moved on to the site off Fairfield Road without planning permission – is currently underway, and Mr Pickles decision will come once all the evidence has been heard.
Fylde MP Mark Menzies and Ben Wallace, MP for Wyre, who both asked for the decision to be called in, have expressed delight at the news.
Mr Menzies said: “I welcome the news the secretary of state has called in the decision. Both myself and my colleague Ben Wallace spoke at the inquiry and wrote to the secretary of state on behalf of residents asking him to do so.
“This is a sensitive and difficult issue and shows the Government recognises the significance of this decision. I know all parties are keen to bring this matter to a swift conclusion and I hope this will help to do so for the benefit of all concerned.”
The travellers are officially living in Fylde – and it was Fylde Council who refused planning permission – but many of the residents affected by the issue live in neighbouring Wyre.
And Mr Wallace said: “I think the deliberate flaunting of the planning regulations by the travellers and the conduct around the site meant it was important for the secretary of state to have a look at this.
“I think there are issues here relating to a deliberate attempt to circumvent the law. I’m very pleased the secretary of state will now have a look at it.”
Local councillor Maxine Chew, who represents Singleton on Fylde Council, is expected to speak at the inquiry today and added: “I’m pleased to the see the decision called in.
“I would think if the secretary of state has called it in it’s to make a decision in light of the latest Government thinking on the suitability of where these travellers’ sites should go.”
The travellers moved on to the site in 2009 and are currently appealing Fylde Council’s decision to refuse them planning permission to remain on the land and an enforcement notice ordering them to leave.
The inquiry began last month, and resumed yesterday with evidence from the council’s landscape expert, Pauline Randall.
She told the hearing a 15-metre wood would need to be created around the site to ensure it blended into the local countryside.
She said: “The only way I think you can make a disparate development such as this blend into an open agricultural landscape that has woodland blocks is to create the illusion of woodland.”
The inquiry, being held in the United Reform Church, on George’s Road, St Annes, is due to finish this week.