New traveller site prompts flurry of concerns about flooding and fly tipping from locals at Wilburton and Stretham

Charles Roberts (con)

Charles Roberts (con) - Credit: Archant

Deputy council leader - and Pickled Pig cider boss- Charles Roberts is spearheading the fight to stop a travellers’ site on land he describes as “absolutely inappropriate, unsafe and unsustainable”.

But he is at odds with housing options officer Angela Parmenter at East Cambridgeshire District Council who believes the site near Stretham is needed following the closure of a site at Burwell last year where a man was murdered in a gypsy feud.

“Our current shortage is eight due to the closure of the Burwell site,” she says.

“We would support this application as it would replace the pitches lost and provide provision for the district,” she says.

Eight families – from Ely, Mildenhall, Lowestoft, Spalding, Manea and Beck Row- have already put their names down for the new site whose fate will be decided next Wednesday.

Despite officers recommending the site north of Amberside, Stretham Station Road, Wilburton, for approval, Cllr Roberts has asked for it to be debated – and decided upon- by the planning committee of East Cambs Council.

“Residential development of any kind should only be allowed in appropriate and safe and sustainable locations; this location is unsustainable and I strongly encourage absolute refusal,” says Cllr Roberts.

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“There are plenty more sites along the Whitecross Road where other such encampments are located,” he says.

“The ceaseless sprawl into the open countryside must be halted and developments only allowed in low impact locations.”

He says: “The proposed site is totally unsuitable for development sitting as it does in the heart of Grunty Fen, an area of open countryside with important views over fenland in all directions

“The council should not allow the littering of caravans and low quality buildings to spoil the unique character of the area forever.”

The district councillor for Stretham, Wilburton and Little Thetford added: “Proper sanitation without polluting the watercourse would be very difficult or impossible and the risk to residents of flooding would be great.”

Grazing land two miles from Wilburton and a mile from Stretham has been earmarked for the new site.

The plan has attracted a flurry of letters from those opposed to it on the grounds of:

• Increase in local fly tipping and fly grazing

• Impact on a neighbouring special needs care home

• The area is already a flood risk as the land sits lower than the road and there is a collapsed culvert

• Increased traffic on a rat run road where it is already difficult to get onto the A10

• Impact on nature

• Outside the development area boundary

But Ms Parmenter will remind the committee that approval would meet only part of a shortage in pitches - the district plan calls for 16 more in the next 15 years.

Tenant farmer John Parish said: “The area is already at saturation point with the number of traveller and showman pitches present in relation to the total size of the district.”

He said he had counted 146 mobile homes and caravans already in the Grunty Fen area.

“I have noted that every increase in pitch numbers has resulted in an increase in fly tipping and fly grazing,” he said.

“As all are on private land I have had to bear the clear up costs myself. “Many of the settled community like me have lived and worked in this area for more than fifty years and feel that East Cambs District Council has failed to meet the requirements of the local development plan.”

Resident Barbara Botradi said the site could mean an extra 32 vehicles.

“The eight additional parts of hard area allocated to each caravan may well be host to visiting caravans for much of the year making a total of 16 households and each household is likely to have two vehicles at least,” she said.

Residents Mr and Mrs Grey said: “Can this area support yet another development when within a three mile radius of this proposed site? “There are already in excess of 100 static/mobile homes.”

They added a proposal had already been refused on grounds of access issues and the neighbouring special needs home.