'˜We're being swamped with travellers'

Parish councils and villagers say their area is being over-run by travellers as they protest over a plan to expand a caravan site.

Proposals to extend Toddbury Farm in Slapton Road, Little Billington have met with fury from locals who say that the settled population is being outnumbered by travellers and gipsies.

Little Billington and Slapton parish councils are fighting the plans which are due to go before Central Beds Council’s development management committee tomorrow (Wednesday) with people living nearby saying the area already has “the appearance of a third world country”.

Under the application from Mr and Mrs McCarthy there would be three additional residential caravans for three gipsy/traveller families. That would mean the site would house four static caravans (rather than one static caravan and one touring caravan), and parking for eight vehicles. The McCarthys also wish to retain a workshop building for mobile home/vehicle repairs.

Planning officers are recommending the scheme for approval but as it sits in the green belt there must be “very special circumstances” to justify the development.

A council report states: “The proposal would result in harm by reason of inappropriateness.

“However, in this case the lack of a five year supply of deliverable [traveller] sites, the overall general need for pitches, the personal circumstances of the families to occupy the site, the need of families with gipsy status to live on the site, and the minimal impact in terms of openness and visual amenity, together on balance, clearly outweigh the harm to the green belt.”

The current proposal is a revision to an original application which sought five additional residential caravans and four additional touring caravans for five gipsy/traveller families, which would have resulted in a total of six static caravans and five touring caravans, and parking for 12 vehicles.

Billington Parish Council has says it has a “strong objection” to the revised plan, stating: “The area of South Bedfordshire which includes Billington, Stanbridge and Tilsworth already has far more than our fair share of gipsy and traveller sites, and in Little Billington there are already far more gipsies and travellers than the settled population.

“We do not see why we should be even further penalised because of the failure of CBC to provide sufficient sites for the recognised G&T population.”

Slapton Parish Council has backed Billington’s concerns.

They state: “We are aware that the site in question is renting out accommodation to the general public and has been doing so for some time. We know this to be true as the people renting are in the Carpenters Arms every evening.

“They are working and being trained at BAE in Leighton Buzzard. As they come from all parts of the UK, they responded to an advertisement offering accommodation.

“The conditions applying to the site stipulate that permissions are for gipsies and travellers exclusively.

“In addition, if there is spare capacity at the site to accommodate these purely commercial activities, there is no need for further static or touring caravans.”

Central Beds Council has stated however that no evidence has been provided that plots have been rented out to non-travellers.

They say: “This has been investigated by the Enforcement Section... and no indication of non-traveller occupation has been confirmed.”

Other objections from locals include:

“Site overpopulated and unsanitary and problem causing to surrounding villagers.

“The failure of CBC to provide a robust traveller site plan, fairly distributed across the county, has resulted in our village and those adjoining being swamped.”

“Do the constant stream of Eastern European people, including children, walking past our front door enjoy traveller status?”

“Local residents are slowly being outnumbered by the traveller community.”

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