PROTESTERS voiced their anger yesterday as council leaders met to consider plans for two Gypsy and Traveller sites in Chester.
Outraged residents gathered outside Cheshire West and Chester Council HQ on Nicholas Street in opposition to the controversial proposals which were being considered at a meeting of the Executive last night.
The plans were likely to be approved and would see Oakwood Farm in Saughall – a Green Belt site – transformed into a 15-pitch transit camp.
Bumpers Lane has also been earmarked for a residential site, along with locations in Winsford, Neston and Ellesmere Port.
The protest came 48 hours after Saughall and Mollington councillor Brian Crowe rallied residents to demonstrate.
More than 100 people packed the Vernon Institute on Monday to hear Cllr Crowe address Saughall and Shotwick Parish Council – with many forced to stand outside in the rain for the first ten minutes.
Cllr Crowe asked: “Can I be quite frank? Is there anybody here that is in favour of this proposal?
“The silence is deafening. We are all on the same side. I am confident that we are going to win this, I really am.
“But I can't do it on my own. I do need people to come on Wednesday. People say it’s a done deal – not so.”
He said he would call the issue in to a scrutiny committee if the Executive approved the plans.
Parish councillor Kathy Ford added: “My feeling is, if we allow this, it’s going to open the floodgates for all sorts of implications for Green Belt.”
Mike Cowle, who lives less than a mile from the proposed camp on Parkgate Road, distributed flyers urging villagers to protest.
He told the council residents had ‘grave concerns’ about the plans.
“The site was not included in the original report done by Ekosgen and therefore has not been assessed for its suitability. The site is Green Belt. It does not have a mains sewer.”
He said the Tory Executive was contravening the party’s own policy on Green Belt protection.
“Wednesday evening could be the pivotal point. We are hoping to stop it there if enough people turn up and they know there’s strong feeling against it,” he added.
In a letter to CWaC chief executive Steve Robinson, Chester MP Stephen Mosley added his voice to the chorus of opposition.
He said: “The underlying fact is that Oakwood Farm lies within designated Green Belt land. No developments should be made on Green Belt land unless under ‘very special circumstances’.”
CWaC hopes increasing its quota of sites will help fend off appeals against its rejection of unauthorised developments.
It says Oakwood Farm justifies the 'special circumstances' required to qualify for Green Belt planning permission as it borders the A5117, a main route used by Travellers in the north of the borough.
The farm was not included in the sites short-listed for the council by consultants Ekosgen. It was put up for auction by the authority in March last year, but withdrawn when its potential as a transit site was realised.
CWaC said sewer improvements would be carried out to accommodate the pitches.
If leaders approve the plans, the authority will apply for planning permission on the sites and a full public consultation will follow.
Go to www.chesterchronicle.co.uk for details of last night’s debate and decision on the controversial proposals.