Topsham folk voice concern over gypsy site plans

MEMBERS of Topsham Town FC have hit out at plans to create a site for travellers near the club’s ground.

Exeter City Council’s executive committee has voted to adopt a masterplan for two major housing developments – 2,300 homes between Exeter and Topsham and 2,500 homes in the north east of the city.

A decision to include gypsy and travellers’ sites next to the football club and the Met Office form part of the proposal.

Councillors approved the masterplan but a decision on the proposed locations for the sites has been deferred for a site visit by councillors.

Hazel Lazenby, treasurer of Topsham Town FC, 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.”

The view was echoed by Danny Carpenter, manager of the club’s first team.

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He 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.”

Mike Webb, vice chairman of Topsham Town FC, lives in Newport Park, located opposite the club’s ground.

Mr Webb said he was equally concerned over what affect a travellers’ site could have in the area.

“It is worrying not only for the people who live hear but over how it could affect the valuation of the place. I would have thought it would drop dramatically.”

Mr Webb added: “The football club has a nice ground. I think what most of its members are worried about, quite rightly, is people entering the place when it’s all locked up.”

Andrew Leadbetter, Devon County Council councillor for Topsham, said he was against plans to add a gypsy site in the town.

“I am totally against it as are a number of councillors I have spoke with,” he said.

“We think (the plan for a travellers’ site) is in the wrong place especially given its proximity to Newport Park.

“There are a lot of older people living in there and we have to think about their concerns. I would question the need for it and I can see why Topsham Town FC has fears.

“Our local MP, Hugo Swire, is onto the matter. We are going to do all that we can to try and stop it. We are not saying travellers should not go somewhere but there are better locations.

“National guidance is changing with the new government and there is no need for the city council to proceed with this.”

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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