Concern over land deals for travellers

PUBLISHED: 12:49 02 August 2007 | UPDATED: 12:43 04 May 2010

EAST Cambridgeshire could become home to up to 150 more travellers - more than half of them settling between Soham and Littleport. They would be given the chance to buy land around the district and get planning permission to set up pitches for their famil

EAST Cambridgeshire could become home to up to 150 more travellers - more than half of them settling between Soham and Littleport.

They would be given the chance to buy land around the district and get planning permission to set up pitches for their families.

But the move by the Government to give travellers permanent homes within the area has its problems, says Haddenham councillor Ian Allen.

There would be no way to ensure that travellers from outside the district would not be able to get their hands on the land and move in.

"How do we deal with that?" said Cllr Allen, who has just taken on the new role of Traveller Champion.

"It is difficult. Travellers could come in from outside, intimidate the farmer to sell his land for cash and apply for planning permission.

"The issue will be how does the policy identify the sites for local needs? How on earth do we identify sites of extra provision for genuine families who are part of our community?

"We have families living local whose families are growing. They need a fair crack."

Under the new rules, East Cambridgeshire District Council would identify pockets of land across the region which would be designated as suitable for traveller pitches.

It would be up to private land owners to decide whether to sell and the travellers could apply for permission to set up their caravans.

"Most travellers make a valuable contribution to society," said Cllr Allen. "I'm certainly not here to defend the people who wreaked havoc at the Cambridgeshire Business Park, but I think that providing travellers with more spaces will help to prevent problems like that in the future."

Cambridgeshire County Council has also been tasked with setting up transit camps around the county for travellers passing through.

The moves have been announced as Ely is still reeling from its latest traveller problems which saw caravans illegally parked on Cambridgeshire Business Park, where £3,000 damage was caused to council-owned units, and at Tesco.

Police officers are to meet council officials and business people in a bid to solve the problem of travellers on the business park.

A date for the meeting has not been set yet but it will involve the Neighbourhood Policing Team, Ely mayor, Councillor Ron Bradney, who has been appointed economic champion to restore confidence and work with businesses to solve the problems, and representatives from companies on the business park.

"I would like to see a mobile PCSO who could be targeted towards the business community where there are any problems and lessen the cause," he said.

"It's just my idea. I don't want to go to the meeting with a closed mind. I want to try to put a package together.

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