Concerned villagers air A16 traveller site fears

Martin Lacey, left, with panel members from the council at the traveller site meeting

Martin Lacey, left, with panel members from the council at the traveller site meeting

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Concerned villagers turned out in force to a meeting where they made their opposition to a traveller site in the area clear.

More than 130 people from Stickford, Keal Cotes and the surrounding villages attended a heated debate in which they questioned representatives of county and district councils on potential sites.

Fears about a traveller site were sparked by a report by Ark Housing, commissioned by East Lindsey District Council to assess gypsy and traveller needs in the area, which named Stickford and Keal Cotes as potential sites.

At last Tuesday’s meeting resident Martin Lacey, who has been campaigning for the meeting and to say no to such a proposal, spoke out.

He said he and other residents felt that the village had suffered anti-social and criminal behaviour from illegal encampments already, and feared this could continue.

He said residents had suffered yards used as toilets and for horses grazing, road fittings removed and window frames and tyres dragged into ditch.

The report included recommendations for 20 stopping places, three transit sites – in Mablethorpe, Skegness and ‘somewhere along the A16 from Boston to Spilsby’ –and a permanent site

Frithville is also named as a potential location.

Residents raised issues such as a lack of consultation, where the site might go, the fact no planning application had been submitted, the need for and lack of amenities andcost.

The parish council also came under fire for not passing on the information to residents. It meant several residents felt there had been a lack of consultation.

Heidi Naylor, a resident and primary head teacher, said she felt she had been let down by the ‘democratic process’.

Coun Craig Leyland, the portfolio holder for economic regeneration for East Lindsey District Council, refused to guarantee that no site would be placed in Stickford or say where any other sites would be considered.

He said: “No application has been made, no planning has been made, we have just made a broad brush stroke comment that this needs to be between Boston and Spilsby.”

When asked what he would do in a similar situation to the residents he said: “I would probably be in a meeting like this.”

The county’s traveller liason officer Nick Willey said the council had ‘a duty to remove unauthorised encampments’ but any decision to do so had to be ‘balanced and proportionate’. He said: “I’ve got encampments that have been there several months and are regularly monitored and low impact and they will be allowed to remain there.”

Residents were told that when the site selection process did take place in the new year, probably due in April, they would have a chance to have their say.

One member of the public was thrown out from the meeting when she refused to stay quiet when asked to keep the meeting in order.