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Councillors resign over gipsy site plan

PUBLISHED: 13:43 20 October 2008 | UPDATED: 14:44 14 July 2010

A row over plans for a controversial gipsy and travellers site near Wymondham has resulted in the resignation of two town councillors.

Les Daws and Chris Kent are both critical of the way that South Norfolk Council has handled the issue - the local community only being informed at the beginning of September that land at Spooner Row has been proposed as a preferred site for up to eight pitches.

A row over plans for a controversial gipsy and travellers site in a south Norfolk parish has resulted in the resignation of two Wymondham town councillors.

Les Daws and Chris Kent are both critical of the way that South Norfolk Council has handled the issue - the local community only being informed shortly before the start of public consultations, in September, that land at Spooner Row has been proposed as a preferred site for up to eight pitches.

The parish is part of Wymondham and both men have resigned in protest, to highlight their concerns.

Mr Kent said: “I have stood down because of the problems I have been having with the travellers' site at Spooner Row. I represent the area and my position is now untenable with the way South Norfolk has handled the situation, and the loss of credibility.

“Although it is not a fault of the parish council, who have little powers, I have decided to resign.”

Mr Daws, who is Wymondham's deputy mayor, said he has been happy and honoured to serve the people of Wymondham for a great many years as a member of the town council.

“Sadly recent events have led me to believe that the people of this district are not being adequately represented. I also feel the town council is largely being ignored and treated contemptuously by the district council. I am not prepared to be part of this and it is with great reluctance that I tender my resignation,” he said.

Mr Daws is hoping the Ombudsman for Local Government will inquire into the process by which recent planning proposals in the district are formulated. “We have identified other sites in Wymondham that would not be so bad for the population,” he added.

John Fuller, South Norfolk Council leader, said the town council had been asked in March 2007 whether it could put forward suitable sites, as part of a district-wide consultation, but none had been suggested. And it had been informed “at the earliest possible moment in September that Spooner Row was one of the preferred options.

“I am disappointed both of the councillors felt the need to step down,” he said.

Mr Fuller said the authority has extended until November 10 the public consultations on proposals to establish three permanent gipsy and traveller sites in at Ketteringham, Suton or Spooner Row, and Earsham or Kirby Cane, in order to meet a requirement to provide additional accommodation within the district.

“Residents feel strongly about this so we are giving them nearly an extra week, including a weekend, to marshal their arguments so they can all be taken into account,” added Mr Fuller.

South Norfolk Council held a drop-in day at Spooner Row village hall on October 15 when many residents voiced their concerns about the suitability of the site, potential traffic dangers and lack of facilities.

One resident, who posted comments on the internet after the meeting, said: “It was wonderful to see how the villagers are standing solid against the council. I think people underestimate the solidarity of our small community and I am proud to be part of it”.

A by-election will be held to fill the two vacancies at Wymondham if requested by at least 10 people. If there is no demand, the town council can co-opt volunteers.

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