Travellers hit out over council sites

Enquiry Chairman Keri Williams and the council team
Enquiry Chairman Keri Williams and the council team
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TRAVELLERS have defended moving onto a site without planning permission as a public inquiry heard Fylde Council had failed to provide adequate pitches.

The second day of the inquiry into the future of the travellers on land off Fairfield Road, Staining, was told traveller provision in the area was “poor”.

Alison Heine, who is acting as the traveller’s planning agent, said she was not aware Fylde Council had ever assessed the need for traveller pitches in the area and described the current provision as “non-existent”.

Mrs Heine said: “As with all forms of housing if they can’t identify a five-year supply the advice is favourable consideration should be given to a planning application.”

The travellers arrived on the site, close to the villages of Hardhorn, Staining and Singleton, in November 2009.

Having bought the land, they set up camp there without planning permission and yesterday site resident Elizabeth Collins admitted to the council’s barrister Jonathan Easton they had not spoken to anyone before they moved in.

She added: “I think we all know how they (local residents) would’ve have responded so no we never (spoke to them).

“I do understand why the locals are upset. It’s something we’ve never ever done before and we’ve just gone by what other travellers have told us and how they did it. We just did it, rightly or wrongly.”

Mrs Collins, whose extended family occupy the site, said they had never settled before buying the Fairfield Road land and had previously spent time around the North West, including pitches in Fleetwood and on land close to the B&Q store, by the M55.

At the inquiry, the travellers were accused of ripping a hedge up after moving onto the Fairfield Road site.

Mrs Collins said: “They (the men) thought they owned it and they thought – rightly or wrongly – it was blocking access and they did replant it.

“That was not the right thing to do but when you don’t know what you’re doing you make a lot of mistakes.”

Mrs Collins and her family are fighting Fylde Council’s decision to refuse them planning permission and an enforcement notice ordering them to leave the site and return it to its original condition.

Residents from Hardhorn, Singleton, Staining and Poulton have formed a protest group to fight the travellers, and local residents are expected to give evidence to the inquiry later today.