Traveller site plans approved

SCORES of Topsham residents attended a packed meeting of the city council’s executive in which the committee approved plans for a traveller site off Old Rydon Lane.

Changing its preferred location from one opposite Newport Park in Topsham Road, members of the committee last week voted to an alternate traveller and gypsy settlement as part of the masterplan for the Newcourt development.

More than 200 residents turned out for the meeting held at Exeter’s Civic Centre – most of whom were angry with the local authority for a lack of public consultation on the matter.

Only 60, however, were allowed inside the council chamber where the decision was being made with around 160 people locked out of proceedings for health and safety reasons.

The gypsy site at Newcourt was approved with a resolution that the council enters into “meaningful discussions with relevant landowners to explore all options for site delivery”.

This was after the council changed its preferred location from a plot of land near Newport Park after deciding to give more weight to the impact on neighboring residents.

As reported in The Journal last month, Michael Dart, owner of the field previously earmarked as a traveller and gypsy settlement in Topsham Road, criticised Exeter City Council for a lack of public consultation on the matter.

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His view was shared by Topsham councillors Rob Newby and Margaret Baldwin who both spoke at the meeting.

Cllr Baldwin said: “As you can see by the number of people here, and twice the number outside, this issue is causing a lot of anger and frustration and the sense that people have not been consulted.

“Councillors are supposed to serve the local people and this whole business has given the council a bad name.

“There is the impression that they have been secretive. It has been a shabby process.”

Cllr Newby who, after the decision was made addressed the residents unable to get into the meeting, said: “The council has failed to be open and transparent.

“When you think a while ago the same local authority quite efficiently sent leaflets round to people notifying them of the reforms to the refuse collections.

“Why, therefore, could they not do the same regarding the plans for a traveller and gypsy settlement?

“This is not a case of being against the idea of a traveller and gypsy site, what has angered people most of all is the lack of communication. This issue is not going to go away.

“There were 220 people here, many whom had left work early, yet we have not even be allowed to witness the discussion.

“We need a public meeting in a room of a good size where we can all exercise our democratic right to see what is going on.”

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