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Small victory for gipsy site protestors

PUBLISHED: 08:00 05 December 2008 | UPDATED: 07:49 01 August 2010

CONTROVERSIAL proposals for permanent gipsy and travellers sites in south Norfolk have been withdrawn by South Norfolk Council.

The authority's cabinet on Monday resolved to start afresh and hold a second public consultation next year - something of a victory for Ellingham and Kirby Cane in particular - there, residents mounted a well organised and constructive campaign to prevent a site at Church Road being designated a reserve site for the area.

CONTROVERSIAL proposals for permanent gipsy and travellers sites in south Norfolk have been withdrawn by South Norfolk Council.

The authority's cabinet on Monday resolved to start afresh and hold a second public consultation next year - something of a victory for Ellingham and Kirby Cane in particular - there, residents mounted a well organised and constructive campaign to prevent a site at Church Road being designated a reserve site for the area.

South Norfolk's decision came after it had received more than 1,000 responses, including two protest petitions regarding initial plans to create three permanent settlements at Ketteringham, Suton or Spooner Row, near Wymondham, and Earsham or neighbouring Kirby Cane. Alternative sites have also been suggested that have to be assessed.

During the meeting, council leader John Fuller, rejected a claim by Murray Gray, leader of the Liberal Democrat opposition, that the original consultation document was “unsound” as the process had not been systematic, consistent or transparent.

But he conceded that the weight given to the criteria for judging the suitability of sites was probably wrong.

Mr Fuller also rejected Mr Gray's allegation that it was “inappropriate” for him to have used the term “the devils own work” at public meetings to describe the search for gipsy and travellers sites, rejecting a claim that he would not have used the phrase if the sites were for immigrants.

Mr Fuller said: “We have to balance the needs of the settled community and the gipsies and travellers, many of whom have life expectancies that are appalling. That is not acceptable in a modern society.”

Richard Lees, chairman of the Kirby Cane and Ellingham residents group, questioned the relevance of the statistics used to narrow site choice to main route corridors such as the A143, A11 and A47, and urged the council to widen out the search.

He told the Journal, after the meeting, that a number of residents who attended were upset by Mr Gray's public allegations regarding Mr Fuller, and he has emailed Mr Gray to voice his concerns.

The council's gipsy and traveller working group will report back to the cabinet on December 19 with a revised checklist, and a suggested time scale for the new consultation.

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