A controversial new travellers’ site for Spalding has been granted planning permission by the tightest of margins.
During a two-hour debate before a packed public gallery, members of South Holland District Council’s planning committee were torn over whether the site off Drain Bank North was suitable.
The result of a vote on approving the plan was 6-6. The tie meant that it had to be resolved by a committee chairman’s casting vote – and Coun Roger Gambba-Jones, who had voted to pass the plan moments beforehand, did so again.
The site will serve as a replacement for an unauthorised travellers’ site at Broad Drove, Gosberton Risegate.
All indications are that the travellers there will be happy to relocate to the new Spalding site. South Holland District Council will then take control of the Broad Drove land.
The Spalding site abuts an existing unauthorised encampment alongside the A16 bypass.
Some planning committee members concerned over highway safety and drainage issues.
Coun Andrew Miller said: “If I was living there I wouldn’t want my children to use that road to get to school. If this is approved by us, I would feel very uncomfortable reading in the paper in a few years’ time that the worst has happened on that road.”
One of the two ward members for the site, Coun Howard Johnson, was particularly vocal in his opposition, citing fears over flooding and the loss of top grade agricultural land.
He said: “I firmly believe that this site doesn’t meet the criteria (of several planning policies).”
District council planning manager Paul Jackson said the loss of agricultural land wasn’t a planning issue and all other fears had been addressed in the report. No statutory consultee had raised concerns over the site.
Fellow St Mary’s member Coun Gary Porter, who is leader of the council, said he had previously supported that site on a strategic level but it was important that he also expressed the views of unhappy residents which he represents.
He wanted a landscaping plan to include the current illegal site, for which a planning application “remains on the table”.
The council had received 52 objections. However, public speaker Josephine Hill addressed the committee, saying that she represented a lot of residents who have no problem with the choice of site. She said general opposition to travellers’ sites stemmed from adverse media and property price fears.