Gipsy site discussion

A public meeting has been called next week to discuss controversial proposals for a private gipsy site in a rural south Norfolk community.

A public meeting has been called next week to discuss controversial proposals for a private gipsy site in a rural south Norfolk community.

Carleton Rode Parish Council decided to arrange the event following widespread local concerns regarding an application by Romany John Leveridge to develop a site for his extended family in the village near Attleborough.

Mr Leveridge restores traditional gipsy horse-drawn wagons and has bought agricultural land at The Turnpike where he is proposing six permanent pitches each with a mobile home and amenity block, as well as two touring caravans. But the scheme has run into strong opposition, with about 140 residents attending Tuesday's parish council meeting to voice their concerns.

An anonymous flyer has also been delivered to local householders claiming their homes will be blighted, and lose value, if the gipsy site is granted consent. It urges those who oppose the development to make their objections know to South Norfolk planners, local district councillor, MP, and even Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

The flyer also claimed that district planners are 'not altogether opposed to the idea' of a gipsy site at Carleton Rode, and 'have also indicated that there is up to �300,000 available for the gipsies'.

Parish council chairman John Laurie said Mr Leveridge's agent had addressed the parish meeting, with residents raising a number of concerns including road safety and the proposed use of the land, and the failure of the district council to tell owners of neighbouring properties about the application.

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'One of the first points made was that the majority of the people in the village had not had time to consider it. Because of that we as parish council decided to reconvene another meeting on Tuesday so people can have more time to consider their responses,' he explained.

'We have got a limited time frame to work on as comments have to be in by February 13.'

South Norfolk Council leader, John Fuller, said the authority has received a �200,000 grant to assist its search for three local gipsy and traveller sites, but he stressed that Mr Leveridge's private site is not included on the list. And he refuted any suggestion that his application has been 'prejudged'.

'If local residents feel the deadline for comments is not sufficient, I will ask officers if it is sensible to extend the deadline and bring the application to the main planning committee to give people the chance to have their say. If the parish council wishes to invite a planning officer to their next meeting to explain planning issues, we would welcome an approach,' he said.

Mr Fuller added that it was not the district council's role to promote private applications, and he applauded the parish council's initiative to widen public awareness off the proposals

The public meeting will be held at 7.30pm at Carleton Rode village hall.