Councillors in Mere have voiced their objections to plans for a gypsy and traveller site off the B3092 at Mapperton Hill.
The site for the proposed ten gypsy-traveller pitches is just on the Wiltshire side of the border with Dorset, between Mere and Gillingham.
In 2015 permission was granted for a pitch for one gypsy-traveller mobile home and caravan, and the owner is now looking to extend it.
In a meeting on December 5 a majority of members of Mere Town Council voted to object to the planning proposal on the grounds of the ‘hazardous’ road access, lack of drainage, flooding and sewerage issues.
Councillor Sandra Catley said that she thought that vehicular access into and out of the B3092 would be ‘very dangerous’ as vehicles travel very fast along that route.
And in its submission to planning authority Wiltshire Council, the council points out that given that only one gypsy and traveller pitch was approved in 2015 it might be ‘misleading to call it a gypsy and traveller site, implying that it is a site for gypsy and travellers (plural) – whereas it is a site for one gypsy and traveller (singular).
‘Bearing this in mind, the application proposals would therefore create a significant change of use for the site with significant impact on the landscape, surrounding countryside, highways and amenities,’ the town council says.
However, during the town council’s discussions Councillor George Jeans, who is also a Wiltshire councillor, said that ‘unfortunately’, Wiltshire Council had not met its target for allocated gypsy and traveller site provisions within the council’s core strategies.
He suggested that the town council – whether it opposed or backed the application – should put forward conditions to be attached to the application should it prove successful. The council did so, on issues such as vehicle access, electricity supply, drainage and screening.
The potential location of a traveller and gypsy site on its doorstep was also briefly raised at Gillingham Town Council’s planning committee on Monday 12 December. However, the application could not be formally debated because Wiltshire Council has not sought the opinion of Gillingham’s council, even though the town is affected by the plans – and is mentioned in the application.
The chair of Gillingham’s planning committee Councillor Val Pothecary, who is also chair of Dorset Council, told that meeting that the council had not received anything from Wiltshire on the matter despite there being a ‘duty for cross-border working in this sort of situation’ under national planning rules.
‘Otherwise it would have been on the agenda,’ said Councillor Pothecary. ‘We have no power unless we are invited to comment.’
According to the application, which is online here, the list of consultees does not include Gillingham Town Council and in any case the deadline for receiving consultee comments is 15 December.
The application states that the proposal on the 1.9 hectare site is for ‘for 10 additional Gypsy / Traveller pitches to be occupied by Gypsies / Travellers’. Each pitch would have ‘1 mobile home, 1 touring caravan, and parking’.
It also notes: ‘The site is well located to provide reasonable access to services. It is c.1.3 miles to the south of the village of Mere and approximately 2.6 miles to the north of Gillingham.’
The application adds: ‘The site is well screened on all sides by existing mature hedgerows and trees and the proposed site layout has been carefully designed to ensure minimal impact on the landscape and the amenity of neighbouring properties.’
When approached by Gillingham News Wiltshire Council’s Councillor Nick Botterill, Cabinet Member for Development Management, said: ‘We have undertaken the relevant consultation for this application and will take all comments received into account.
‘This application will not be treated any differently to any other application in Wiltshire and will be considered in the same thorough and professional fashion, regardless of geographical location.
‘There is still time for Gillingham Town Council to submit their comments before Christmas and they will be taken into consideration when a decision is made early in 2023.’