PLANS for a permanent gypsy and traveller site in South Tyneside have been given the go-ahead, despite protests from nearby farm owners.
South Tyneside Council’s planning committee yesterday granted a retrospective application from the owner of West Pastures Caravan Site, off Newcastle Road, West Boldon, for 11 pitches.
Each pitch has space for two caravans and a detached brick building to provide kitchen and bathroom facilities, utility storage and general living space.
A local councillor today described the decision as “devastating” and pledged to see what course of action could be taken.
Coun Linda Hemmer, UKIP representative for Fellgate and Hedworth, said: “It is devastating news because, obviously, people don’t want it.”
The owners of four farms objected to the proposals, with the closest to the site being Scott’s House Farm, in Newcastle Road.
Residents there raised concerns about the loss of green belt land and the present state of the site.
A spokesman said: “The site has been a mess ever since it has been used as a caravan site, with a burnt-out wagon, wrecked caravans and building rubbish.”
Coun Gladys Hobson, Labour member for West Park in South Shields, also expressed concerns at the planning meeting.
She said: “I think this application for buildings is more like a trailer park than a traveller site.
“Eleven buildings of a 45sqm footprint is a fair size. Each one is the size of a small bungalow.
“This is a very, very large development, which will impact on this green space.”
She also queried who would be responsible for the payment of utility bills, while Cleadon and East Boldon Conservative councillor Jeff Milburn, asked whether they would be required to pay council tax.
Both were told such matters were irrelevant to the planning application.
Temporary planning permission for the site, which was granted after a public inquiry in March 2008, expired in March 2011.
It has since been identified as a “suitable site for gypsy/traveller development” in the council’s development plan.
Coun Bob Watters, also a Labour member for West Park, said: “Government legislation requires local authorities to provide suitable and appropriate sites for travellers, and the council has its own equality and diversity policy.
“They want to become active members of the community and enjoy the same rewards as the rest of us that live in South Tyneside.
“I have no problem with this application and I recommend it is granted.”
Coun Alan Kerr, added: “There are sites like this throughout the country, there have been for some time, and the travellers have integrated very well.
“These are not static caravans, these are people who are moving on all the time.”