‘Unbelievable!’, ‘does anyone want to buy my house?’ and ‘can we have a reduction in council tax?’ were some of the angry words from residents after two traveller pitches in Pulborough were approved.
An application to change the use of land at the junction of Hill Farm Lane and Stane Street to allow for the pitches was given the nod by Horsham District Council’s planning committee on Tuesday (September 17).
The plans attracted 60 objections, with questions asked about road safety, the effect on the character of the area and whether there was a need for such sites in the first place.
Councils are required to have a five-year supply of land to be used as accommodation for gypsies, travellers and travelling showpeople – something Horsham does not have – so the answer to the final question was ‘yes’.
That point prompted committee chairman Brian Donnelly (Con, Pulborough, Coldwaltham & Amberley) to support the need for a review of the rules which govern such matters.
Mr Donnelly told the meeting that the committee had to make its decision based on evidence submitted in line with the protocols set out by the council and the government.
He said: “I think we all know that this type of application does cause a bit of anguish on all sides of the fence.
“There’s been a lot of talk about these matters for some time. It’s quite clear that the protocols are overdue a revision.
“The nub of the matter really is this five-year supply of land for gypsies and travellers. That is a protocol we have to adhere to.
“As soon as we run to get to a point we seem to be standing still because the government keeps on changing the goal posts.
“Really more representation should be made to government to review these matters.”
Mr Donnelly agreed with one of the objectors who said the lack of allocated land was not the fault of the residents, and urged them to ‘try to push your MP a wee bit’.
He added: “We are in a situation where we do not have the five-year supply of land, which does make it exceptionally difficult for us.
“For the past ten years the officers have been trying very, very hard to achieve these targets all the time but it’s not as easy as it seems.
“It’s not the fault of the gypsies and travellers and it’s not the fault of the citizens. This is just the situation we’re put in by directives by government.”
Claire Vickers (Con, Southwater North) said: “Whilst it’s difficult I can’t actually see any reason to refuse this based on the policies that we have.”
Kate Rowbottom (Con, Billingshurst) asked if the council could guarantee that the site would not be used as a temporary base for people who wanted to stay for a month and then move on.
She said: “That surely wouldn’t be fulfilling the need that we have.”
Officers, though, said they would not have that degree of control.
Members were also told that, if they refused the application, they would have ‘a very limited chance of success’ if the applicant appealed the decision.
There were angry words from the public as they left the meeting after the application was approved.