SILCHESTER villagers turned out in force on Tuesday evening at a special meeting to discuss a travellers’ site under construction without planning permission in the village.
A total of 238 people attended Silchester Village Hall for the Silchester Parish Council extraordinary meeting, chaired by its chairman Simon Mahaffey.
The Little London Road site, at RG7 2PP, is partly situated in and next to a Site of Special Scientific Interest, next to Pamber Forest and adjacent to sewage treatment works.
Mr Mahaffey emphasised the aim was to concentrate on the planning issue.
He said: “I’m also aware when travellers move they are accused of every problem in that community and that’s not fair and I will not tolerate it.”
Confirming a retrospective planning application for the site, Gypsy Council representative, Joseph Jones said: “The gypsy liaison officer told me there are approximately 24 families on the waiting list and nothing has been done to provide more sites since they were sold off.”
One villager queried why the travellers had not bought the land and then applied for planning permission “as the rest of the village do”. Other villagers called for the site to be restored to its ecology and national importance,
“My concerns are if you take trees down, surely that’s criminal damage?” said one.
However, Hampshire county councillor Keith Chapman said it was a civil, rather than criminal, matter.
Concerns also included tipper lorries entering and leaving the site, a flood zone, and for the ecology, including any pollution of local waterways. Archaeological finds had recently been made in Pamber Forest and the excavator, Reading University, had been notified.
Travellers at the meeting, one of whom said he was born in Tadley, said they had no-where to go. “We grew up on the side of the road and no-one here can read or write,” said one.
“We don’t want the same for our children.
“I have a sick child at Great Ormond Street hospital. I can’t be pushed from pillar to post, that’s why I’ve put all my savings into this land.”
The travellers also offered to repair damage to any verges in the village caused by their vehicles and pointed out donations towards legal costs might be better put towards a judicial review into the borough-wide lack of travellers’ sites.
Silchester villager John Saltmarsh appealed to villagers to consider that the travellers’ community included 25 children, likely to attend the village primary school and not to transmit antagonism and stress to them.
Mr Mahaffey said the travellers had moved on to the land on February 18 and 19 and started work to create 13 plots.
A High Court injunction obtained by the borough council was served at the site on February 21.
A motion was passed by the parish council to support action to prevent and remove unlawful works on the site and a show of hands revealed villagers overwhelmingly in favour.
The parish council and Mr Mahaffey were praised at the meeting for their handling of the issue.