Concern mounts for a Gypsy and travellers site in Topsham

AN ANGRY pensioner is urging residents against plans for a gypsy and travellers site in Topsham to send objection letters to Exeter City Council.

Alan Southard, 66, of Sleepy Hollow, has lobbied residents of Newport Park to submit letters of objection to the head of planning at the local authority.

He said more than 100 people who live on the retirement residential park were outraged at the plans.

A gypsy and travellers site is being considered as part of a masterplan for two major housing developments in and around the city.

The council is proposing to house the facility in a field next to Topsham Town Football Club.

Mr Southard said: “The strength of feeling here against the plans is very strong. A lot of us are very concerned.

“If the proposals go ahead, I don’t think a lot of people here will be able to sleep at night. Any noise the park’s residents hear they will be worrying. “

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Mr Southard said because a lot of elderly people lived on the park, some of whom were infirm, he was worried about the potential of excessive noise which could keep them up at night.

He added: “We have been advised by a local councillor to write individually to the council objecting to the proposal.

“A group of travellers moved in across the road three years ago and left a heck of a mess. At the time there were things stolen from Newton Park.”

Members of Topsham Town Football Club have also hit out at plans to create a site for travellers near their ground.

Danny Carpenter, manager of the first team, said: “It can’t do us any good having a gypsy site right next to it. Whoever decided on these plans would not put it next to their home, would they?

“The facilities up here are second to none. The club is trying to move forward and this could affect that.”

Hazel Lazenby, treasurer of the football club, believed a group of travellers occupying the area could cause the club to fold. She has called an emergency committee meeting to discuss the issue.

Mrs Lazenby said: “There is no way we can allow this to happen. It will crucify the site.”

Exeter City Council’s executive committee has voted to adopt a masterplan for the housing developments. But, a decision on the proposed gypsy and travellers facet of the plans has been deferred for a site visit by councillors.

A spokesperson for Exeter City Council said it was hoped they would report back to the next executive meeting for a decision on November 23.

“The need for gypsy and travellers pitches was identified in a survey conducted in 2006,” said the spokesperson.

“This was followed by a site search and an invitation to the public to suggest sites. The Council then consulted on a series of options in the two draft master plans for Newcourt and Monkerton/Hill Barton.”

A separate resident of Newport Park, who refused to be named, said: “We are all up in arms about it. We don’t want any hassle at our age but the reality, with this, is totally different.”

A spokesman for the Gypsy Council said: “There needs to be more official sites for people to use.

“Because there are not enough sites, people have to camp on pieces of land where they can.

“The solution is for the Government and local authorities to work together to ensure sufficient sites are provided.”

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